Human Tissue Resource Center


Where is the HTRC located?
We currently have 3 labs located on the 6th floor in the P-wing of the hospital:  P630, P616, and P612. We have 4 additional labs on the 5th floor of the P-wing where we house our freezer farm and our body fluids processing laboratory.

When should I contact the HTRC?
If you are writing or submitting a new IRB protocol or have any amendments to your existing protocol, and if you require any of the services listed on the website:  biospecimen banking/processing, histology, tissue microarrays, and digital pathology.

Biospecimen Banking
Can I start my project before the IRB protocol is approved?
No.  An IRB approval letter is required before any work can be done pertaining to your project.

When should I schedule a “Tissue Bank” meeting?
A meeting should be scheduled whenever you have written or are in the process of writing an IRB proposal; or if you have any amendments to an active, open protocol.

Who do I contact to schedule a “Tissue Bank” meeting?
You can email to schedule a meeting.  All tissue bank meetings are held on Tuesday mornings.

Will the HTRC procure biospecimens containing pathogens?
No.  The HTRC does not currently bank any biospecimens containing known pathogens.

What are the differences between fresh, formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE), frozen OCT, and snap frozen?
Fresh – Tissue with no fixatives added.  During transport tissue can be placed in a media (e.g. RPMI, PBS) according to the protocol guidelines.  Labeled containers and media should be provided by the investigator.

FFPE – Tissue that has been fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin, dehydrated, infused with paraffin wax, and embedded in paraffin wax, to make a paraffin block.  The paraffin block can be used to cut sections for H&E staining, IHC staining, and DNA extraction.  The morphology of a FFPE section is superior to that of a frozen OCT section.

OCT – Fresh tissue embedded in OCT (optimal cutting compound) and frozen via liquid nitrogen vapors.  The frozen OCT block can be used to cut sections for H&E staining, IHC staining, and DNA/RNA extraction.

Snap Frozen – Fresh tissue wrapped in foil and submerged in liquid nitrogen.  Snap frozen tissue can be used for DNA and RNA extraction.

What is the difference between diagnostic tissue and research tissue?
Diagnostic tissue requires examination by a pathologist/resident/PA, and submission of tissue for histologic processing, in order for the pathologist to make a diagnosis.  A diagnosis is the interpretation of tissue findings that will dictate the management of a disease/cancer, the management of other diseases, or future need for additional procedures.  These findings are summarized into the pathology report, a written medical record of tissue diagnosis.

Research tissue qualifies as anything in excess from a diagnostic specimen or a biopsy taken specifically for research purposes after the diagnosis has been made.  Please note that diagnosis always takes priority over research.

How should a tissue bank specimen from the OR be labeled/flagged?
The specimen should be sent fresh (no fixative added) with a patient identifier label affixed to the outside of the container.  The label should contain, at a minimum, the following information:   patient name, MRN, date of birth, tissue type/site.  If it is a diagnostic specimen, a Surgical Pathology requisition (for routine processing) must accompany the specimen.  An orange tissue bank label should also be affixed onto the container.

How do I get the orange tissue bank labels?
Tissue bank labels can be provided any time after the investigator has met with the tissue bank staff.  If an investigator needs to replenish his/her labels, please contact

What are the differences between “Frozen Section + Research” and “Research  Only-Do Not Accession” on the orange labels?
Permanent (Diagnostic) + Research – This means a Surgical Pathology requisition must accompany the specimen.  The specimen is evaluated and if there is an excess of tissue, some may be obtained for banking/research purposes.

Tissue Bank Only-Do Not Accession – No Surgical Pathology requisition is needed.  A patient identifier label and tissue type/site must be designated.  You must be pre-approved to use this designation.

Where do I bring a sample that has no diagnostic component and how should it be prepared?
Research only samples should be hand carried to P524. The sample(s) should be labeled with the patient name, MRN, date of birth, tissue type/site, and procedure time.

What if I miss the 4PM deadline for documenting consent the day before surgery, because a patient will be consented in pre-op the day of surgery?
Documentation of consent should be provided to the HTRC via our biobanking software system by 4PM the day before surgery.  If a late consent is obtained, contact  and page 7325 with the patient name and MRN.  The patient should be registered with documentation of consent entered as soon as possible.

I consented a patient, how/when do I find out if tissue was banked or not?
All information on tissue that was flagged for banking is documented in labvantage™.  Once the specimen reaches the gross room, information regarding any banked tissue is available in labvantage immediately after the tissue is processed.  Any information regarding patients whose tissue was not banked will be entered 24-48 hours after the procedure.

What is labvantage and when should I use it?
Labvantage is an online system used to manage biospecimens banked by the HTRC.  It also serves as a system for entering and verifying patient consent; and a tool for investigators to request research samples banked by the HTRC.

How can I get access to Labvantage?
You can email for access as well as for all other labvantage inquiries.

What if I entered the patient name and/or MRN number into Labvantage incorrectly?
Immediately contact as this will impede the banking process.

What if I forgot to register a consented patient into Labvantage?
If the patient is not in Labvantage, it is considered an unconsented case and the tissue will not be banked.

Requesting Samples
Can I return my tissue bank samples to the HTRC when I’m done with them?
No.  Once samples have left the HTRC, they are depleted from labvantage and cannot be returned.

Can I pick up my biospecimens the next day?
Pick up of biospecimens can be arranged with the HTRC staff member that filled your order.  All orders are filled on a first come first serve basis so everything is dependent upon the current workload.

Can I get tissue from a specific organ or for a specific diagnosis?
Yes, we can perform a search for tissue from a specific organ or diagnosis.  An approved IRB protocol is required and a copy of the IRB approval letter must be submitted.  De-identified samples and pathology reports can be provided when appropriate.

Can I get matching normal and tumor samples from the same patient?
Yes, if available.  Not all patients will have enough tissue to collect both normal and tumor samples.

Do I need IRB approval to obtain tissue samples for study controls?
No.  This is part of routine study workflow and is not considered human tissue research.


Should I contact HTRC personnel before submitting a request for histology services?
Yes.  The HTRC strongly encourages new investigators to consult with staff before submitting requests for services.  We offer assistance to investigators who may need help choosing the best method(s) for their research.  In addition, this will ensure that the investigator is aware of and understands the SOPs of the HTRC.

How do I request diagnostic blocks/slides?
Please fill out the HTRC Human Request Form.  Please be sure to include the following information with your request:

      1. Surgical pathology number (e.g. S12-3456) and block IDs (e.g. A1, B2, C3) or ideal block IDs (A1-A5, B6-B8).
      2. Number of unstained slides requested. The standard slides used in the HTRC are Superfrost Plus Microscope Slides. If different slides are desired, please provide specific instructions on what you would like used.
      3. If path verification is required, then 1 H&E slide must be included in your request.
      4. Please provide a copy of the path report, as it is very helpful .

Can I ship diagnostic blocks/slides to an outside institution?
No.  Illinois state law and hospital policies prohibit the release of diagnostic blocks/slides to any department outside of Surgical Pathology at the University of Chicago Medicine.  However, the HTRC can cut and stain sections from diagnostic blocks at the request of the investigator; or create a digital image of the diagnostic slide.

I submitted a request form for histology services.  How soon will my request be complete (e.g. sections cut for staining)?
The average turnaround time is 2-3 weeks; however, it is mostly dependent on the current workload and the complexity of the request.

How will I be notified that my request has been completed and I can pick up my blocks/slides/tubes?  Where do I go?
An HTRC staff member will email you when your request is complete and ready for pick-up.  Included in this email is the room number and the name of the staff member that completed your project.

I have a deadline to meet.  Can you expedite the request I submitted?
Requests are filled on a first come first serve basis.  Authorization to expedite a request must have the approval of the technical director or the faculty director.

My request is part of a Clinical Trial.  How soon can I get this request completed?
Clinical Trials are priority when it involves patient enrollment.  The turnaround time for these requests is usually within 24 hours. This must be an active, approved protocol with a current IRB approval letter.

Where do I submit a request for frozen samples?
Frozen samples are submitted to an HTRC staff member in P616 and stored in a -80 degree freezer.

Will the HTRC fix my samples and provide me with the materials needed for processing?
No.  It is the responsibility of the investigator to properly fix his/her samples and drop them off ready for processing.

Do my samples have to be fixed before I drop them off?  How long should I fix the tissue?
Yes, we recommend that samples be fixed for 6 to 48 hours depending upon the tissue type and the tissue size for sufficient tissue fixation.  If they are not thoroughly fixed, the tissue will not cut or stain properly.

What if my samples require special care (e.g. light sensitive)?
Please indicate this on the request form, with instructions, prior to submission.

Does the size of the tissue specimen matter?
Yes.  The size of tissue specimen should not exceed 3 mm (thickness) x 20 mm (diameter) to ensure sufficient penetration of fixatives and other chemicals involved in tissue processing.

Can I use a Sharpie or pen to label cassette for paraffin tissue processing?
No.  The label will be lost during tissue processing if you use Sharpie.  Pencil (especially HB pencil) should be used to label cassette.

Do I need to provide the antibody for my IHC staining?
It depends.  The HTRC has a list of antibodies commonly used by researchers.  If the antibody you need is on our list, it can be provided to you for a fee.  If the antibody you need is NOT on our list, it is recommended that you schedule a consultation with the technical director regarding your IHC staining; you may need to provide your own antibody.  Please note that the list of commonly used antibodies is updated continuously, so please contact the technical director to see if the antibody you intend to use is available.

How do I submit samples/slides for IHC staining?
If you already have slides cut and want to submit them for IHC, you can bring then to room P630 with a HTRC request form. Please speak with a HTRC staff member when you come to submit your project. Samples for processing, embedding, and sectioning should be dropped off in P616 with an HTRC request form.

Do I need to supply slide box(s) for pick up?
You may bring your own slide box(s); otherwise, the HTRC can provide the box(s) for a fee. Please see our website (fees) for the most up to date prices.

How do I request a Tissue Microarray to be made?
Contact the technical director to schedule a TMA consultation.

Digital Pathology
What is Aperio and what does it do?
Aperio is a company that specializes in ePathology (e.g. digital pathology) solutions.  The HTRC currently houses the AT2, an Aperio slide scanner.  The AT2 can slide up to 400 slides in brightfield.  To learn more about Aperio, visit

Is the analysis software complicated?  How long does training take?
The software is very user friendly, but learning the software can be a daunting task.  It is recommended that the investigator make sure he/she understands the histological characteristics of his/her slide(s), prior to scheduling a training session.  This will help optimize the training process.  Training time is dependent on what the investigator is interested in learning.  Please see the Training page on the HTRC website to find out more information.

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