Neurological charities pump £3 million into digital brain bank to boost MS and Parkinson’s research
Two leading neurological charities have announced £3 million of funding for Europe’s largest brain and tissue bank, based in London.
The funds from the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK will enable an all-new digital brain bank, ambitious virtual reality initiative, and new research projects, which could help researchers finally stop multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s for good.
The new digital brain bank, complete with virtual reality interface, will be based at the MS and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, and will enable scientists from around the world to access brains virtually, making research more effective and efficient.
The charities will continue to fund the existing infrastructure of the Tissue Bank – already the largest repository of MS and Parkinson’s brain and spinal cord tissue in Europe – which has shared over 100,000 samples with scientists since it opened 20 years ago, leading to more than 700 research projects worldwide.
Combined, MS and Parkinson’s affect more than 248,000 people in the UK. Current treatments do not stop, slow or reverse either of the conditions.
MS Society Head of Biomedical Research, Dr Sorrel Bickley, said:
Professor David Dexter, Deputy Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, said:
Sharing and storing tissue samples in this way means each individual brain can be used more extensively, benefitting future projects as well as current ones.
The digital brain bank will also incorporate a 3D interactive section that allows people to explore the virtual brain. Virtual visits will enable potential donors in particular to understand the purpose of the Tissue Bank, how it operates, and what happens to tissue once donated, helping them make fully informed decisions.
Both charities will contribute £1,534,543 each over five years to this and other projects at the Tissue Bank, including work to help establish how a person’s genetic make-up influences how their MS or Parkinson’s develops. This involves linking tissue samples to genetic information, so researchers have a fuller picture of the donor behind each sample.
Deborah Burrows’ husband David was diagnosed with Parkinson’s over ten years ago. When he passed away he left his brain to the brain bank.
Deborah, who lives in Slough, explains:
Professor Richard Nicholas is the newly appointed Scientific Director of MS studies at the Tissue Bank, taking the helm from Professor Richard Reynolds, who personally collected the first brain in 1998.
Professor Nicholas says:
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