Challenges for Brain Research

Purpose of a Brain Bank

BrainNet Europe consists of 18 formally constituted brain banks whose essential purpose is to provide brain tissue samples to a community of research users, those samples being derived from post mortem or surgical practice, and authorised for research by the relevant authority, ideally by family members or by the individuals themselves through prior arrangement. The tissue samples, and the related data may be obtained from one or more hospitals, possibly from a wide catchment area, but are stored at a central site.

Brain banks retain both disease cases and appropriate matched controls and are ethically approved to supply coded/anonymised tissue samples to legitimate users for medical research.

The matching data is held in a secure database which preserves the confidentiality of the donors and of the families. Systematised protocols for brain bank administration have been developed over the last 15 years or so.

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Advantages of a network of Brain Banks

The inclusion of a national Brain Bank in an international network fosters the sharing of protocols and development of best practice. One aspect of this collective experience concerns brain bank management, excellence in which is a prerequisite not only for gaining the trust of society, but also for ensuring equitable distribution to researchers of high quality tissue samples.

The 18 component banks of BNE operate within different national legislatures, a common Code of Conduct is under work. However, some basic principles and practicalities for efficient management of a 21st century brain bank have already emerged from BNE's shared experience.

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Research needs

Researchers are intensely seeking new approaches to treat illnesses better than before. Collections of human post mortem brains gathered in brain banks have underpinned many significant research developments in the understanding of central nervous system disorders like Alzheimer, Parkinson, depression and schizophrenia and continue to support current research.

Current therapy successes have only been possible because people exist who, after their death, make their organs and tissue available for research.

Today, we all profit from these people who have chosen to help all of us. Unfortunately today the worldwide decline in post mortem examinations has an adverse effect.

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