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Put your brain to good use when you've finished using it

See also...
External Sites:
-Parkinson's Disease Society Tissue Bank
-ASCOT trial
(Imperial College is not responsible for the content of these external internet sites)

Under embargo for
Tuesday 6 September 2005

Doctors and researchers are calling for donations of brains to conduct medical research into disorders such as Parkinsons and Alzheimer's.

Speaking at the BA Festival of Science today, at Trinity College, Dublin, Dr Kirstin Goldring Opens in new window, from Imperial College London and Charing Cross Hospital is calling for more donations of brains to help researchers discover new treatments for neurological disorders.

Dr Goldring comments: "Although the idea of carrying a donor card for organs such as hearts or lungs is generally accepted, the idea of one for brains has not taken off. While we have made big steps in new treatments for these disorders, a lack of brain samples has seriously hampered our efforts to date. Brain disorders can affect just about anyone, even those under the age of 45, and your brain could play a vital role in helping develop better drug treatments or even cures for diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimer's."

As well as brain tissue from individuals affected by Parkinsons and Alzheimer's, researchers also need samples from healthy individuals. This is to compare how a diseased brain looks compared to a healthy brain. On average, the researchers receive only one donation from a healthy volunteer for every 25 from those suffering from one of the conditions.

To date brain donations have helped researchers develop new drugs and treatments, including L-DOPA. More recently, researchers have used donated tissue to identify chemicals called free radicals that may be involved in nerve cell death in Parkinson's.

Dr Goldring adds: "Although many feel squeamish about the idea of donating their brains to medical research, it really is vital that we get more samples to conduct research. With an increasingly ageing population, the incidence of Alzheimer's and Parkinsons is only likely to increase, making further research a priority."

Dr Goldring is the manager of the Parkinson's Disease Society Tissue Bank, started in 2002, and maintained by Imperial College London at Charing Cross Hospital, London. The Society supports the Tissue Bank as a major infrastructure resource for members of the Parkinson's research community who can obtain tissue from both Parkinsonian brains and 'control' brains for use in their research. Although the bank is run by Imperial and the PDS it is an international resource, from which scientists working in this area can request tissues for their research.

For further information please contact:

Tony Stephenson
Press Officer
Communications Division
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6712
Mobile: +44 (0)7753 739766

Notes to editors:

1. Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.