The Great North Neonatal Biobank
April 2018: We will provide more information about the biobank soon.
What is our research focused on? Newborn babies who are born with complex health needs, for example, premature babies, have increased risks of problems affecting growth, nutrition, and how the gut works. Our research is focused on trying to reduce complications associated with these problems such as sepsis and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). NEC affects around 1:10 premature babies and can be life-threatening, and some babies with sepsis develop brain complications. We are also interested in how babies grow, and what effects this may have in later life for example, obesity, allergy or brain development.
The Great North Neonatal Biobank will collect and store specimens from newborn babies. This only happens where parents have given permission to do this. We do not collect or store specimens without written parental consent. Most specimens are either stool (feces) or urine, collected from the nappy, or blood that is left-over after routine blood tests are complete. All these specimens would normally be thrown away. With parents permission, we may also collect small quantities of breast-milk. Some of the specimens may have been collected for other research studies (for example, see our research page for the MAGPIE study) but not needed. Instead of disposing of these samples from other studies, we ask for permission to store them so we can use them in the future.
Although sick and preterm infants are the focus of our research interests, non-invasive samples from healthy term infants may also be collected including urine, stool, breast milk and saliva. This helps us compare the patterns in sick babies with healthy babies.
Occasionally, we also collect small samples of gut tissue if they have been removed as part of an operation that was needed to save a baby's life. These samples would normally be stored in a pathology lab in the hospital. On occasions, we will ask parents permission to use these specimens before they are stored in the pathology lab. These 'fresh' specimens may contain stem cells and allow us to test how the intestine works under laboratory conditions. We can grow these cells for a few days and learn more about how the gut functions, without having to study the baby directly i.e. there is no risk to the baby. You can read more about the work of our collaborators here.