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Using Archived Neonatal Dried Blood Spots in State Biobanks for Toxicogenomics Analyses: A Summary of the Michigan Bloodspot Environmental Epidemiology Project (BLEEP)

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A handful of states, including California and Michigan, have developed biobanks that store neonatal dried blood spots of children born in that state over a several year period. In Michigan, the Michigan Neonatal Biobank (MNB) inventory includes four million newborn dried blood samples representing nearly ...

A handful of states, including California and Michigan, have developed biobanks that store neonatal dried blood spots of children born in that state over a several year period. In Michigan, the Michigan Neonatal Biobank (MNB) inventory includes four million newborn dried blood samples representing nearly every Michigan birth since mid-1984 (www.mnbb.org). The Biobank’s roots are planted in the Newborn Screening Program which began in 1965 in the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). Newborn screening is a public health program required by Michigan law to find babies with rare but serious disorders that require early treatment. A few drops of blood taken from the baby’s heel are sent to the State Public Health Laboratory (SPHL) and are tested for 49 genetic disorders. Each year more than 200 Michigan babies are found to have a disorder detected by Newborn Screening. Once screening in the state laboratory is complete, residual dried blood spot samples that are no longer needed for testing are each assigned a unique code which assures anonymity for the sample and its donor. The samples are then sent for storage in the MDB. A 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization, the MNB is contracted to serve as the repository for storage and management of the samples in a temperature controlled facility at Wayne State University's Biobanking Center of Excellence in Tech Town. In addition to demographic data and test results, the MNB samples can be linked to Michigan’s public health registries, making it possible to request specimens that are associated with a known health outcome. Over 160 biomarkers and compounds have been measured in dried blood spots, from DNA and proteins to metals and infectious agents. They are an excellent source of specimens for both epidemiological investigations and studies of how genes interact with the environment, as well as for assay development. Researchers have used the MNB samples for studies that look at: DNA methylation patterns in cases of autism, ADHD, and CHD; health outcomes and the reversibility of lead exposure; health outcomes in babies conceived by IVF; assay development or improvement for SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) and MD (muscular dystrophy); the effect on hearing of pre-natal exposure to heavy metals; and the influence of the epigenetic processes on the prediction of FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders); and exposures to mercury, lead and tobacco.

In order to better utilize resources of the Michigan Neonatal Biobank, The Michigan URC (University Research Corridor) funded over 12 pilot projects from 2012 to 2015 in an initiative titled, “Bloodspot Environmental Epidemiology Project (BLEEP).” The BLEEP program promoted innovative transdisciplinary and translational research that generated insights into the impact of prenatal environmental exposures on predicting developmental outcomes and risk of disease. The collective multi-disciplinary expertise and resources of investigators at University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and the Van Andel Institute, as well as the Michigan Neonatal Biobank were part of the BLEEP program. The goal of our Frontiers in Genetics Research Topic is to provide a forum for the recipients of the BLEEP pilot awards to present their data in a single format, and to provide insights for best practices, standardization of output and correction factors to control for methodology. This Research Topic is also open to other researchers who have utilized neonatal biobanks in Michigan or in other states or countries.


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