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Use of human tissue

If you are undertaking research or teaching activity which involved the use of any human tissue (including body fluids), or material derived from human tissue, you must use the Online Human Research Ethics Application and Review System (online ethics system) to obtain UniSA Human Research Ethics Committee (UniSA HREC) approval before undertaking the research.

You do not need to obtain human ethics approval from UniSA HREC if the material has been reduced to such an extent that it is identical to material available from a non-human source. However, you may need to obtain approval from the Institutional Biosafety Committee for this activity.

UniSA HREC meeting and submission dates

Responsibility for human tissue samples

The organisation which obtains the human tissue material from the donor (called the originating organisation) is responsible for:

  • gaining consent for the use of that material
  • the material and its use.

The originating organisation may release human tissue material to researchers for subsequent projects (ie projects for which the material was not originally gathered). However, the research group receiving the material must seek ethics approval.

Please note: In cases where tissue is provided to the University of South Australia researcher by another organisation (such as a hospital), that tissue is provided for a particular purpose. Should the research change, or the researcher wish to use unused tissue for a new research project, agreement to the amended or new project should be sought from the originating organisation as well as UniSA HREC

Ethical issues

The ethical issues surrounding the use of human tissue are similar to those that arise in relation to other research involving humans (see list below). These issues are addressed in the UniSA online ethics system.

  • Value of the research: Research involving humans should be demonstrably valuable.
  • Safety of the researcher: Researchers will conform to the usual biological hazards provisions
  • Consent: The organisation which obtains the original material is responsible for gaining consent for the use of that material. It is preferable if consent is also granted for further use of the material. Notwithstanding this, UniSA HREC would normally require proof of the donors consent if the proposed research involves foetal tissue or placenta, germ cells, propagation of genetic material or has the potential for commercial exploitation.
  • Confidentiality: Data and results would be stored in the same way as for other research involving human subjects. In most cases the researcher would be unable to identify individual donors, where individuals can be identified results should be coded in the same way as for other human research.