BOX 1-1A Note on Terminology Used in This Report

The terms “biospecimens,” “biomarkers,” and “biodata” are sometimes used interchangeably, and researchers should be aware that these terms can have different meanings in different fields of study. In this report, the term “biological specimens” or “biospecimens” refers to the actual biological material that is collected from a study participant, such as blood, urine, or saliva. A “biomarker,” often derived from a biospecimen, is a measurable factor that is associated with a particular medical condition. In population-based research, biomarkers are used to identify such things as cardiovascular risk factors, metabolic process measures, immune system activity, and nervous system activity. Examples include levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), C-reactive protein (a marker of acute inflammation), Epstein-Barr virus antibodies (a marker for immune function), total and HDL cholesterol (indicators of cardiovascular risk), and hemoglobin A1c (a marker of glucose intolerance). Biomarkers can also consist of gene alleles that are associated with a higher probability of a particular medical condition (e.g., ApoE-epsilon4 and Alzheimer’s disease). In population-based research, biomarkers are often obtained by collecting biological specimens in nonclinical settings, but they can also be derived from, for example, anthropometric measures; accelerometry-based activity monitors; spirometry; or other measures of functional capacity, heart rate, blood pressure, and grip. “Biodata” refers to the digital data derived from biospecimens.

Two additional terms used in this report need to be distinguished. The term “biorepository” refers to a facility used to store human specimens for research purposes, while “biobank” denotes a facility used to store biodata. The contents of biorepositories range from large multinational collections of thousands of specimens to several dozen specimens in an individual researcher’s freezer.

From: 1, Introduction

Cover of Conducting Biosocial Surveys
Conducting Biosocial Surveys: Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biospecimens and Biodata.
National Research Council (US) Panel on Collecting, Storing, Accessing, and Protecting Biological Specimens and Biodata in Social Surveys; Hauser RM, Weinstein M, Pool R, et al., editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2010.
Copyright © 2010, National Academy of Sciences.

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