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The Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Human Biological Specimens Used in Research

In the field of research, human biological specimens play a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge and medical breakthroughs. There are several types of specimens classified based on the part of the body from which they are derived. 

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Dr. Peace Chikezie

Published 06 Jul 2023 - Updated 06 Jul 2023

The Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Human Biological Specimens Used in Research - Infiuss Health


In the field of research, human biological specimens play a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge and medical breakthroughs. 

These specimens, collected from living or deceased individuals, provide valuable insights into various aspects of human health and disease. 

This blog post will provide an overview of the different types of human biological specimens used in research and their significance in scientific investigations.


Types of Biological Specimens 

There are several types of specimens classified based on the part of the body from which they are derived. 

Now, let's delve into six specific types of biological specimens:


1. Blood Specimens

Blood specimens are widely utilized in research due to the wealth of information they contain. 

They can be obtained through venipuncture or other methods, and the collected blood is typically processed and stored under specific conditions. 

Some common uses of blood specimens in research include:

A. Biomarker analysis: 

Blood samples can help identify specific biomarkers associated with diseases or conditions, aiding in diagnosis and monitoring.

B. Genomic studies: 

Blood specimens are valuable sources of DNA and genetic material, enabling genetic research and understanding of inherited traits and diseases.

C. Therapeutic drug monitoring: 

Blood samples can be used to monitor drug levels in the bloodstream, ensuring effective treatment.


2. Tissue Specimens

Tissue specimens provide insights into the cellular composition and characteristics of specific organs or areas of interest. 

Different types of tissue specimens commonly used in research include:

1. Biopsies: 

Tissue samples obtained through minimally invasive procedures, such as needle biopsies or endoscopic procedures, allow for detailed analysis of diseased or abnormal tissues.

2. Surgical resections: 

Tissue specimens collected during surgical procedures provide a broader representation of the affected area and enable studies on tissue morphology and histology.

Tissue specimens can be preserved through :

i. fixation

ii. freezing or 

iii. embedding in paraffin blocks for long-term storage and subsequent analysis.


3. DNA and Genetic Material Specimens

DNA and genetic material specimens are invaluable resources for genetic research and molecular studies. 

They can be obtained from various sources, including:

A. Blood: 

Blood samples contain DNA that can be extracted for genetic testing, sequencing, and analysis.

B. Tissues: 

Tissue specimens, such as skin biopsies or tumor samples, provide genetic material for studying genetic mutations, gene expression, and disease mechanisms.


4. Urine and Saliva Specimens

Urine and saliva specimens offer non-invasive methods for collecting biological material and are particularly useful in certain research areas.

Key uses include:

I. Diagnostic screening: 

Urine and saliva samples can be analyzed to detect the presence of specific markers or biomolecules, aiding in disease diagnosis and monitoring.

II. Pharmacokinetic studies: 

These specimens can be used to assess drug levels and metabolites, providing insights into drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion.


Proper collection and handling techniques, such as using sterile containers and following specific protocols, are crucial to ensure reliable results.


5. Cerebrospinal Fluid Specimens

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens are collected through lumbar puncture and offer valuable information about the central nervous system. 

Their applications include:

A. Diagnosing neurological disorders: 

CSF analysis can reveal abnormalities associated with various neurological conditions, such as infections, autoimmune diseases, or tumors.

B. Research on neurodegenerative diseases: 

CSF samples enable the identification of specific biomarkers related to conditions like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis.


Special care must be taken during collection to prevent contamination and ensure accurate analysis.


6. Other Human Biological Specimens

Apart from the mentioned types, other human biological specimens used in research include stool, respiratory samples (e.g., sputum), and various derivatives prepared from biofluids, tissues, or cells (such as RNA and protein lysates). 

These specimens serve specific research purposes and offer unique insights into different aspects of human biology.

For instance, stool samples are valuable for studying the gut microbiome and investigating gastrointestinal diseases. 

Respiratory samples like sputum can aid in the diagnosis and monitoring of respiratory infections or conditions such as tuberculosis. 

Derivative samples, such as RNA, provide valuable genetic material for gene expression studies and molecular analyses.


It's important to note that using the different types of human biological specimens in research comes with ethical considerations and privacy concerns. Researchers must obtain appropriate consent from individuals donating their specimens and adhere to strict guidelines to ensure patient confidentiality and data protection.




Q: What is the most common specimen used in the laboratory?

A: The most common specimen used in the laboratory is blood. It is readily accessible and provides a wealth of information through various tests and analyses.


Q: What are human samples called?

A: Human samples collected for research purposes are commonly referred to as human biological specimens. These specimens can include blood, tissue, urine, saliva, cerebrospinal fluid, and other types of samples obtained from living or deceased individuals.


Q: How can I donate my human biological specimens to research?

A: If you are interested in donating your biological specimens for research purposes, you can reach out to reputable research institutions, academic medical centers, or organizations involved in specific research areas of interest. They can provide information on their donation programs, ethical considerations, and the necessary procedures for donating your specimens.


Q: What are the risks of using human biological specimens in research?

A: Handling biological specimens can come with certain risks which include :

1. Transmission of Infectious Diseases: There is a risk of transmitting infectious diseases if proper precautions are not taken during specimen collection, handling, and storage.

2. Contamination and Cross-Contamination: Biological specimens can be vulnerable to contamination, leading to inaccurate results and compromised research outcomes. Cross-contamination between specimens can also occur if proper procedures are not followed.

3. Degradation and Instability: Human biological specimens can degrade over time, especially if not stored under appropriate conditions, leading to the loss of valuable research material and compromised data quality.

4. Misidentification and Labeling Errors: Incorrect identification or labeling of specimens can result in data discrepancies, misinterpretation of results, and potential research errors. It is essential to maintain accurate records and labeling practices to minimize these risks.

These risks highlight the importance of implementing robust protocols, following best practices, and adhering to stringent quality control measures to ensure the integrity and reliability of research conducted with human biological specimens.



Human biological specimens are essential resources in scientific research, offering valuable insights into human health and disease. 

Infiuss Health is at the forefront of ensuring the ethical collection, storage, and distribution of human biological specimens in Africa for research purposes.

Our expertise in navigating regulatory frameworks in Africa, maintaining patient privacy, and facilitating collaborations between researchers and healthcare institutions has made us a trusted partner in the scientific community.


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