Scientific Background

In an era of rapidly growing knowledge about the biochemistry of the brain, increasing insights into the genetics of brain diseases and a greater understanding of functional anatomy through various imaging techniques, there is an increasing need for brain tissue banking, i.e. the systematical collection of human post-mortem brain tissue from clinically well-characterized and neuropathologically well-diagnosed patients.  

In parallel the generalised decline in post mortem examination in most European countries has lead to a decline in brain donations to brain banks. Thus it is difficult for individual brain banks to obtain brains from people with rare diseases in sufficient numbers for meaningful studies. Another significant problem for most brain banks lies in collecting normal control brains from all age groups.

Forming brain bank networks individual brain banks can then share knowledge and access to samples. Many brain banks have a long tradition of making tissue samples freely available to bona fide researchers. By spreading expertise across the brain banks of Europe, BrainNet Europe will ensure that brain tissue samples are stored optimally and are readily accessible to researchers.   

Individual brain banks within the BNE consortium focus on different CNS disorders. Overall, samples are stored from neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, motoneuron disease, movement disorders, prion diseases etc.), inflammatory diseases (such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS etc.), psychiatric disorders (such as schizophrenia, major depression etc.), perinatal brains and from controls.

The member banks possess a wide range of methodological competences including the full range of histological staining techniques, confocal and electron microscopy, morphometry and stereology, laser capture microdissection, neurochemical assays, and molecular biology techniques, in particular techniques for DNA/RNA/protein extraction and analyses.

BNE provides a forum for rapid spread of expertise relating to brain banking techniques, both within the consortium and to the wider neuroscience community. While the legal framework for brain banking varies between individual European countries, BrainNet Europe is making efforts to harmonise the major ethical issues, including informed consent for different aspects of research.

Requests to BrainNet Europe for brain tissue samples are welcome  provided that potential users have ethical approval for the studies which they wish to pursue. Information is available under BNE Code of conduct.


Copyright (c) BrainNet Europe, coordinated by the Centre for Neuropathology and Prion Research, Ludwig- Maximilians-University Munich, Germany. Tel.: +49-89-2180-78001