Biobanking entails large-scale collection of human biological specimens that are linked to the donors' health and personal information, and has several applications in clinical research. Human biological specimens, such as blood, urine and tissue, have become immensely important to medical research: they offer a valuable source of genetic material that researchers can use to identify disease-associated genetic variation and to determine interactions between genes and environmental factors. Identification of genetic contributions to disease can lead to the development of new diagnostic tests and targeted treatments. Over the last decade, both common diseases and rare genetic disorders have been reported in Saudi Arabia. The need to generate extensive genetic data on these diseases has led to the establishment of several Saudi Arabian biobanks. Fortunately, these vital efforts have the support of the Saudi Government and researchers. However, the success of any biobank also requires public support and the willingness of the population to donate their biological material along with information on their medical records. Thus, the Saudi public needs to be informed of the benefits of maintaining biobanks, their participation needs to be encouraged through donation of biological material, and any public concerns regarding the confidential treatment of medical data need to be addressed. This article reviews the most common genetic diseases identified in the Saudi population, it describes biobanks and it examines how biobanks can support biomedical research in the area. Moreover, this article proposes measures that might help to increase public awareness of biobanks and the preparedness of the Saudi Arabian population to donate biological material.
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