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WHI Biospecimens

The WHI maintains a large repository of biological specimens available to investigators with approved and funded ancillary studies. The repository is located in Rockville, MD and maintained by Fisher Bioservices.

What’s Available

Baseline through Year 9 samples were collected at the WHI Clinical Centers. Urine was collected from bone mineral density (BMD) participants only at the Universities of Alabama, Arizona, and Pittsburgh (bone density clinicals). Long Life Study (LLS) samples were obtained in the participant’s home, between March 2012 and May 2013 (~Year 14 – 20).

Investigators should use the WHI Query Builder to check if there are enough participants with a given specimen for their proposed ancillary study. Studies are limited in the volume of samples they can request.

Additional information about collection, timing, processing (e.g., extraction and quantitation methods), shipment, and quality control are described in the WHI manual and in the Long Life Study: Synopsis of Blood Protocol.

Serum, EDTA Plasma, Citrate Plasma

Volume limit: 0.25 milliliters

Time pointStudy population
BaselineAll CT, OS
Year 1All CT
Year 3All OS, 6% CT subsample
Year 66% CT subsample
Year 96% CT subsample
~ Year 14 – 20Long Life Study participants (serum, EDTA plasma only)
Red Blood Cells (RBCs), DNA via buffy coat

When requested, DNA is extracted from the stored buffy coat. An aliquot is made for the testing lab and the remaining sample is returned to the WHI repository.

DNA has been extracted using different methods over time.

Extraction periodMethod
2000 – 2003Qiagen Puregene / Bioserve
2004 – 2005Salt-precipitation
2005 – 2008Phenol Chloroform
2008 – PresentQiagen / Five Prime

The current “Five Prime” extraction method was developed at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle, WA) using Qiagen reagents in a method designed to maximize both quality and yield. An ancillary study may receive samples extracted by different methods or freshly extracted DNA. The DNA is extracted “as needed”, thus the extraction date does not correlate with the date of the blood draw. Long Life Study DNA was extracted using the Five Prime method.

Volume limit: 0.25 milliliters (RBCs), 1-2 micrograms (DNA)

Time pointStudy population
BaselineAll CT, OS
Year 1All CT
Year 3All OS
~Year 14 – 20Long Life Study participants

Volume limit: 0.5 milliliters

Time pointStudy population
Collected at Bone Mineral Density (BMD) sites only
BaselineCT, OS
Year 1CT
Year 3CT, OS
Year 6CT, 25% of OS
Year 9CT, 25% of OS

For the Long Life Study visit, RNA/miRNA was extracted from a PAXgene tube within ~1 month of collection. The concentration of RNA was determined by NanoDrop.

Volume limit: 0.5 micrograms

Time pointStudy population
~Year 14 – 20Long Life Study participants

Obtaining Access

Biospecimen samples are available to principal investigators with an approved and funded ancillary study. The steps from a funded study to specimen results with linkage to WHI survey data are depicted in the flowchart.

CCC = Clinical Coordinating Center; SPL = Specimen Processing Labs