Britain’s biggest brain bank houses 1,650 brain specimens
Would you consider donating your brain to science?
In the United Kingdom, a lot of people are willing to donate their brains for future research. In fact, the brain bank at the Imperial College of London, which is the biggest out of 12 in the country, holds 1,650 brain specimens.
The brain bank run by Professor Steve Gentleman and funded by Parkinson’s UK and Multiple Sclerosis Society UK accepts brains from people who have recently died and who decided to donate their organs to science.
In case you’re wondering what Professor Gentleman does with these specimens, he actually slices and cuts them into chunks.
‘It’s firm, like fruit. It’s like cutting into a melon,” Professor Gentleman told The Daily Mail UK.
According to Professor Gentleman, the brain must be brought to the bank within 48 hours after the death of the donor.
“The brain is no use to us unless we get it within 48 hours. It starts falling apart after that,” Professor Gentleman explained.
Upon receipt of the organ, it is cut in half, sliced, photographed, and frozen immediately. Researchers usually need an iced brain for research, particularly in genetic studies. While half of the brain is frozen, the other half is put in chemicals that will preserve it forever, known as the process of fixing. The process allows the organ to remain in its natural state.
Professor Gentleman then produces a neuropathological report four weeks after the brain is fixed. He slices it up, looks for physiological changes, and gives feedback to doctors.
“Sometimes it’s impossible to tell what was wrong with the person until you examine their brain,” he said.
Once he produces the report, Professor Gentleman can send out brain samples to other researchers in need.
Interested donors may contact the brain bank via firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7594 9732.