About Susan Boyce PhD
I have spent over 25 years of my scientific career in the sphere of not only Human Tissue for Research but also for Transplantation. This has brought me into close working contact both with Health Professionals and Researchers. I understand the desire of the medical specialist who would like answers to the conditions that they treat and would also like to be involved in the research, if they had the time or the contacts. I also understand the frustrations of the scientists who would like to get at those answers but realistically know that it takes time, sometimes a lot of time and an awful lot of money which has to be bided for, often in a very crowded field of applications for that money. Having arrived at some of those answers that is surely the end of the battle? Well no that is only the beginning. As we all are aware drug development and trials can take even longer and eventually arrive at no positive conclusion.
At the heart of this are members of the public - they want the answers and can often also contribute to them. Having discussed donation at therapeutic intervention with thousands of potential donors I am always amazed at their keenness to support the collection of Human Tissue for Research by giving their written consent. In my time as the Head of a Research Tissue Bank, I rarely encountered refusal. Their decision to contribute to research in this way was often at a very difficult time for them facing an unwelcome diagnosis, surgery and treatment. Their understanding of the need for Human Tissue for Research was heart-warming. Similarly, Healthy Volunteers, came forward to provide urine samples, blood samples (even a few that really didn’t like needles) and so on.
A much more difficult arena to work in has to be that of human tissue in transplantation. Setting up a solid tissue bank in the, then, Blood Service (now Blood and Transplant in the UK) was, initially, a challenge. Credit due to the Transplant Coordinators who spoke to the recently bereaved and gave them the opportunity to donate solid tissues often when it wasn't possible to donate solid organs. Their skilful lifestyle questions, combined with my close scrutiny of hospital notes (where available at donation) and health questionnaires to the donor’s GP and Pathologist (where a subsequent post-mortem was conducted) ensured the safety of the solid tissue. This being the Blood Service, of course, a blood sample taken at donation was also screened.
For me the ‘Gold Standard’ for research has to be verifying the findings for any disease or condition from cell and animal models in Human Tissue for Research. This is not to decry cell and animal models, they have an important part to play in elucidating basic mechanisms of a disease, in my own area of research interest, Alzheimer’s disease I used both of these to indicate findings which are going to be pursued in Human Tissue for Research obtained from a registered Tissue Bank. Again, both disease and healthy tissue will be required.
My final obsession is Quality Management (QM)! We, as scientists, owe it to the clinician waiting for answers, the patient waiting for treatments, the donors of Human Tissue for Research and last but not least the patients and recently bereaved who gave their loved ones' tissues in the expectation that research would happen to provide answers to difficult questions, if not for them then for the sufferers of the future. With a Masters in QM I have always worked with that in mind. Now it has become a requirement, particularly for Scientific Publication. I am currently working on the validation protocols for the antibodies that I have selected for my next piece of research using Human Tissue for Research.