Why is brain donation for research needed?
The brain is the most complex organ in the body. Though it is possible to study a living brain using ever-sophisticated imaging techniques, many diseases remain poorly understood and much of current research in brain disease still requires laboratory studies of donated human brain tissue.
Unlike many other organs in the body where routine operations regularly provide surplus tissue for research, surgery on patients with brain disease typically produces only very small amounts of tissue, with much of this needed to make a diagnosis. As a result, post-mortem donation of brain tissue remains very important to support research in diseases of the brain.
Researchers have become increasingly aware that for many patients surviving traumatic brain injury, such as might occur in a car crash or as a result of a fall or in former athletes from a range of contact sports, this can alter lifelong risk of a variety of illnesses, including risk of dementia.
Access to post-mortem human brain tissue has been crucial in helping researchers recognise the link between a brain injury and degenerative brain disease. However, we are still some way from understanding why this happens, and how treatments might be developed for patients with brain injury to prevent this happening
For this reason, we are asking people to register their wishes to donate their brain at post-mortem. We are particularly looking for people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, such as in a car crash or assault, or who have been exposed to head injuries and head impacts participating in sport, such as rugby or football.
In addition, we are also looking for people to register their wishes to donate their brain at post-mortem even if they have no known history of brain injury as this can be very helpful to understanding normal ageing and how brain injury might influence these processes.
Will my family get any results from my agreeing to take part?
Any diagnostic information that is found at the post-mortem examination would be fed back to your next of kin in keeping with normal NHS procedures, but from that point on, any donated tissues which enter the tissue bank are anonymised and no further results will be linked back to you or your family.
For further information on registering to donate brain tissue for medical research and education after death, please see our Participant Information section or contact us to receive the registration paperwork.