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Specimens in the WHI Biorepository

Specimens collected from WHI participants are maintained in a biorepository in Rockville, MD. The sample inventory is tracked via a WHI Specimen Tracking database, which includes variables associated with the specimens, such as # of fasting hours before blood draw and # of freeze/thaw cycles.

Types and Time Points of Specimen Collected

Serum, Plasma, Red Blood Cells, and Urine    


​Time Point1
(EDTA, citrate)

Buffy Coat

WBC, Hct, Hgb platelet countUrine (BMD sites3)RNA
Year 1CTCT
Year 3​​
CT 6%4, OS
CT 6%4, OS
Year 6CT 6% CT 6%
- --
CT, OS 25%
Year 9CT 6%
CT 6%


CT, OS 25%


1 - Time points:  Baseline through Year 9 samples were collected in WHI 1993-2005 at WHI clinical centers; samples for the Long Life Study (LLS) were collected in 2012-2013 at participant homes  
2 - Buffy coat is not available to researchers.​ DNA is extracted from buffy coat for samples selected for testing at the WHI central lab and aliquots of DNA are shipped to the testing lab.
3 - Urine samples were collected at the three Bone Mineral Density (BMD) sites where BMD was also measured (see 'BMD' on the Subsample Definitions list for brief description)
4 - CT 6% subsample (see 'CT 6% blood' description on the Subsample Definitions list for brief description). RBCs and Buffy coat were not collected routinely from the 6% CT subsample at Years 3, 6, or 9
5 - LLS (Long Life Study, N = 7,875, see Long Life Study for a description). Serum collected in serum separator tubes (SST), plasma collected in EDTA and plasma separator tubes (PST). 

Specimen Collection, Processing, and Storage

  • Blood samples: Participants were asked to fast for at least 12 hours before blood draws. The day of the blood draw, part of all baseline blood samples and OS Year 3 blood samples was sent to clinical center labs for measurement of WBC, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and platelet count. The remaining blood samples were maintained at 4°C for up to one hour until plasma or serum was separated from cells. Blood samples for carotenoid analysis were protected from natural and fluorescent white light with samples stored in covered containers or tubes.

  • Buffy Coat:  Buffy coats were removed from the spun EDTA and citrate blood collection tubes and placed in 1.8 ml freezer vials.   

  • RBCs:  After buffy coat was removed from the EDTA blood collection tube, a sample of the packed RBCs were placed into 1.8 ml freezer vials. NOTE: In 2009/2010, samples from ≤3% WHI RBC draws suffered degradation as the result of storage at -20 ºC while at the processing lab for aliquoting (as described by Pottala et al). These vials have been removed from the WHI biorepository inventory. Two RBC processing procedures have since been implemented to prevent RBC sample degradation: (1) RBC samples are consistently stored at -80 ºC, and (2) the minimum RBC aliquot volume is 250ul (to prevent oxidation). With these procedural changes, the WHI RBC samples are of good quality for use in ancillary studies.

  • Urine:  First morning void urine samples were collected on both CT and OS participants at the three BMD Centers. Specimens were centrifuged and placed into 1.8 ml freezer vials. 

Specimen vials were labeled with barcodes, frozen at -70°C, and sent on dry ice to the central repository in Rockville, MD (stored at -80°C). 

See WHI Manual, Vol. 2, Sec. 11 - Blood and Urine Collection, Processing, and Shipment for complete description of the collection process. See Form 100 and Form 101 - Blood/Urine Collection, Processing, and Shipment for items collected regarding specimen handling.

Quality Control samples:

  • Blind Duplicates:  WHI uses blood samples from women who consented to the screening blood draw, but were not enrolled or randomized into any WHI component.  The samples are relabeled to provide blinded samples that are included in all batches of assays.

  • Pooled sample:  Pooled samples of serum, citrated and EDTA plasma, and RBCs were created early in the project to be used in batches of core analytes and CVD biomarkers.  Results of these samples allow investigators to monitor the stability of primary analytes over time.  

Further information


See additional information from the Specimen page


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