The Dr Hadwen Trust has welcomed calls by scientists for more people to donate their brain to medical research in order to help find cures for diseases such as dementia. Reporting on BBC On-line, leading scientists explained how vital donated human brains are to medical research, but that such research is being hampered by a lack of supply of diseased and healthy brains.
Speaking to BBC On-line, brain investigator Dr Payam Rezaie from the Neuropathology Research Laboratory at the Open University, said: “For autism, we only have maybe 15 or 20 brains that have been donated that we can do our research on. That is drastically awful. We would need at least 100 cases to get meaningful data. But that is just one example. A lot of research is being hindered by this restriction.”
Dr Marie Janson, of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, told BBC On-line, “Donated brains can be an immense help in the fight against dementia and are likely to become more important in the future. Most drugs already developed for brain-related diseases have relied on research using human brains.”
Lack of public awareness about brain donation was identified as a major factor in the lack of supply. This concurs with a national survey of scientists conducted by Focus on Alternatives1 (FoA) chaired by the Dr Hadwen Trust which found that 54% of researchers identified the lack of reliable supply as the main obstacle to them making greater use of human tissues in research.
The Dr Hadwen Trust’s Nicky Gordon says, “We urgently need greater public awareness about the medical research benefits of donating not just brains but also other tissues and organs. Human information is the gold standard, and this type of research has already proved absolutely vital in finding treatments for a range of debilitating diseases. Our Focus on Alternatives survey indicated that scientists may resort to using tissues from laboratory animals even though they are less biologically relevant, simply because they don’t have access to a reliable supply of human tissues.”
Every year thousands of animals are killed purely to provide biological products such as blood and tissues for research. Many thousands more animals are used to ‘model’ diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis using artificially induced symptoms. Ethically-sourced human tissues and cells can provide a direct replacement for these animal tissues, avoiding problems of species extrapolation and improving relevance to human patients.
FoA human tissue survey results2
Scientists who responded to our survey revealed:
- 78% sourced human cells/tissues from in-house sources and/or by collaborations with surgeons and clinicians.
- 24% sourced human cells/tissues from the UK Human Tissue Bank at Leicester
- 24% sourced human cells/tissues from commercial suppliers.
- 78% said it could be difficult to obtain a regular and reliable supply of certain types of primary human cells/tissues for research purposes.
- 54% said the lack of a reliable supply prevented them from making greater use of human tissues in research.
BRAIN BANK BREAKTHROUGHS
Discovery of L-dopa treatment for Parkinson’s disease
Discovery of amyloid deposition in Alzheimer’s disease
Discovery of Lewy bodies in dementia
Discovery of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Discovery of the role of glutamate in Schizophrenia
If you are interested in donating your tissues or brain for medical research that could benefit people and save the lives of animals in laboratories, click here for the Dr Hadwen Trust’s quick guide.
Original news item found here.
1 The Dr Hadwen Trust is a founder member of Focus on Alternatives which was established in 1998. Focus on Alternatives brings together representatives from British non-profit organisations funding the development or promoting the acceptance of methods that replace laboratory animals in research, education and testing. Members include Dr Hadwen Trust, FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), Humane Research Trust, UK Human Tissue Bank (UKHTB), St Andrew Animal Fund (part of Advocates for Animals), RSPCA and Lord Dowding Fund.2 A questionnaire survey of scientists working in academia a