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Access to Human Tissues

Human tissue models are biologically and physiologically relevant and can help to speed up research and development while saving money and reducing the number of animals used in science.

Human tissues are currently being used in many areas of biomedical research, including research on conditions and diseases like cancers, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and for the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. It’s also common for human tissue to be used in microfluidic systems for toxicology testing and as biosensors to detect biological or chemical threat agents. 

Locating Human Tissue for Research

There is no single organization or network that oversees the process of obtaining human tissue from consenting donors and providing it to researchers, but there are numerous organizations that can help.  


Biorepositories are libraries where biospecimens are stored and made available for clinical or research purposes. Around the globe there are hundreds of biorepositories, or biobanks. Many focus on collecting material from patients diagnosed with specific diseases, some are population-based, and others have an even broader focus. 

Specimen Central is the global hub where biobanks and biomedical researchers meet to exchange human tissue needs and supplies. Specimen Central seeks to reduce delays and costs in research by expediting connections between demand and supply and by connecting biobanks, biorepositories, tissue archives, pathology labs, and reputable commercial human sample providers with qualified scientific researchers of all kinds.

Tissue Solutions is a virtual biobank that sources ethically acquired, fully consented tissue from its extensive global network. Tissue Solutions has a Volunteer Donor Database where anyone can register to donate samples for scientific research. 

The International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) oversees the International Repository Locator to help investigators locate biospecimen and data repositories by developing a directory of repository information that can be searched online.

The College of American Pathologists’ (CAP) Biorepository Accreditation Program and Laboratory Accreditation also offers a searchable database of CAP-accredited biorepositories. 

The US Biolab is a global biobank that has access to a diverse range of human biospecimens in various disease states to meet researchers’ research needs. 

The American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) maintains a database of AATB accredited tissue banks in the U.S.  

Organ Procurement Organizations and other tissue providers 

Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) are non-profit organizations that are federally designated by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They are responsible for recovering organs from deceased donors for transplantation in the U.S. Many OPOs also work directly with researchers to provide donated human tissue for medical research, education, and testing. The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) maintains a list of OPOs by region. Many OPOs also work with researchers outside of their federally designated area. 

In addition to OPOs, there are other tissue providers who specialize in providing human organs and tissues for medical research, education, and development. These providers can meet researchers’ specific requests, provide an array of tissue types from any body system, offer diseased and non-diseased biospecimens, and can arrange several preservation methods, including fresh, frozen, and fixed, suitable for various analytical techniques.

International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine works with OPOs, tissue banks, and donor families in the U.S. to provide biomaterials to qualified medical and scientific professionals around the world.

National Disease Research Interchange provides academic and corporate investigators worldwide with high-quality human biospecimens to advance biomedical research. 

Tissue for Research works with biomedical companies and academic institutions to provide annotated human specimens for diagnostic, drug, or medical device research or for basic research. Tissue for Research has an inventory of biospecimens or can collect samples from most diagnoses to meet a researcher’s specifications. 

Academic medical centers, hospitals, and surgical centers

Academic medical centers, hospitals, and surgical centers can also be a valuable resource for investigators in need of donated human tissue, including surgical remnants. Several medical centers in the U.S. have partnerships with universities and biotechnology companies to provide them with human tissue for research, treatment, and drug development purposes. 

The Association of Academic Health Centers maintains a record of U.S. and international academic health centers. Researchers can contact centers to learn more about their practices in recovering and providing donate tissue for research. 

Contact your local medical centers to learn more about their role in recovering tissue for research.