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article imageBelgium establishes a global brain bank

By Tim Sandle     Oct 14, 2016 in Science
Antwerp - A brain bank, a grisly sounding collection of brains and tissues, has been established in Belgium, with parts of the collection being shipped from the U.K. The idea is to provide tissue and medical records to researchers all over the world.
The idea of a ‘brain bank’ conjures up images of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation of his Monster. The reality is a collection that aims to aid medical science. The new collection is housed and managed at the University of Antwerp.
The first collection of brains and associated material began, according to Laboratory Roots, in the 1950s. During this decade neuropathologist John Corsellis began a collection, taking material from routine autopsies. The random collection of samples was held at St. Bernard’s Hospital in Ealing, U.K.
While the collection was of interest, there were concerns about the degree of record keeping and the environmental conditions within which the brains were held. This led scientists in Belgium to seek to established a brain bank, drawing upon their more recent material and the older collection of brain matter in Britain.
The collection in Antwerp now stands at 3,348 items. Most of these are intact brains and the majority of brains are those of psychiatric patients. The bank also has the world’s largest collection of brain tissue samples together with medical records of the patients.
Discussing this on the university’s website, Professor Manuel Morrens, who oversee the brain bank, explained why the collection was so important: “Many patients never received any treatment, which means that scientists can now research certain disorders using these ‘uncontaminated’ brains.”
Speaking with Flanders Today, medical student Violette Coppens adds that because it is difficult to get permission to study brains of deceased patients today, the collection is of immense value. A key research area is to see whether inflammation in the brain is a cause of different psychoses.
The video below explains further why the brains are important:
The curators of the brain bank hope the brain will lead to new discoveries in the field of biological psychiatry.
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