NIGMS Announces Continued Funding of the Human Genetic Cell Repository

Announcement Date:
Cryogenic tanks
Cryogenic tanks filled with liquid nitrogen and millions of vials of frozen cells. Credit: Coriell Institute for Medical Research.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has entered into a $14 million, 5-year cooperative agreement with the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, New Jersey, to continue operating the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository.

The repository provides human cell lines and DNA samples for use in genetic, biochemical and cell biologic research. Scientists use these materials to identify genes and characterize metabolic pathways associated with a wide range of recognized human disorders.

“The cell repository greatly facilitates access to high-quality, well-characterized clinical resources that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for individual biomedical scientists to obtain,” said Michael Bender, Ph.D., the NIGMS program director for the repository. “Demand for repository specimens continues to be high, with over 5,000 cell lines and almost 40,000 DNA samples provided to 1,500 different scientists in 2014 alone.”

The repository contains more than 11,300 cell lines and 5,700 DNA samples derived from them. These specimens, which are equally divided between those from males and those from females, were acquired from individuals with inherited diseases, apparently healthy individuals and individuals of diverse geographic origins. The largest part of the repository is the inherited disease collection, which represents almost 900 disorders. The repository also includes 39 induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines that carry disease gene mutations or are normal control iPS cell lines.

Established by NIGMS in 1972, the repository has provided materials that helped scientists gain important insights into a number of genetic disorders, including Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and mitochondrial diseases. More recently, scientists are using repository lines from different geographic regions and extended families to explore human DNA sequence variation and its links to disease.

The repository distributes specimens to qualified biomedical scientists for a nominal fee through a Web-based catalog. Each entry includes detailed information about the clinical characteristics of the individual who donated the biological sample as well as the genetic and biochemical features of the cell line. Samples come to the repository with informed consent from the donors, and the repository protects the privacy of the donors by stripping its records of personally identifiable information.

For more information about the repository, visit or contact Michael Bender, Ph.D. at 301-594-0943.