UK’s Brain Bank at the Imperial College, London Continues its Research on Donated Brains to Find a Cure for Parkinson’s Disease

by Farzeen Hafeez

At Imperial College, London there is a Brain Bank Department, specially designed for the diagnosis and research of neurological disorders.

Parkinson's Disease

At Imperial College London there is one of the UK’s Brain Banks, established for diagnoses and research into neurological disorders. (Source: Barcroft Media)

People, with or without diseases, donate their brains to the research center in order to help progress the on-going work on conditions such as Parkinson’s disease; a degenerative neurological condition.

The main symptoms of the illness are tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity. While, hallucinations, depression, pain, lack of sleep and nausea are less commonly known symptoms.

Once the donor has passed, the person’s brain is preserved in formaline (a well-known organic compound for preservation of biological materials) within 48 hours.

Parkinson's Disease

In a small laboratory in London are hundreds of human brains, labelled and ready for dissection. (Source: Barcroft Media)

Dr. Beckie Port, Research Communications Manager for Parkinson’s UK, said: “The Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank is the world’s only dedicated brain bank for Parkinson’s research.”

No cure or causes have been drawn out for the disease as yet. However, researchers believe it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors while they continue to find a concrete proof.

There are many different treatments for Parkinson’s disease; therapies and supports are available to help manage the condition, but these only mask the symptoms, rather than slowing or halting the condition’s progression.

Parkinson's Disease

The brains are donated by members of the public, both with and without Parkinson’s disease. (Source: Barcroft Media)

A UK-based photographer, Darragh Mason Field, was granted access to the Imperial College Brain Bank in September 2017 to celebrate their 1,000th brain donation due for this month.

Darragh interviewed and filmed Professor Steve Gentleman, Scientific Director of Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank, during his daily task of brain dissection.

The professor said: “I’m going to dissect and sample various areas of the brain, looking for pathology at a microscopic level.”

Parkinson's Disease

The bank is going to receive its 1,000th brain this October. (Source: Barcroft Media)

Professor Steve Gentleman also showed a glimpse of their work in the laboratory. He dissected the donated brain searching for signs of Parkinson’s disease. Where, every piece of tissue was catalogued with a barcode.

Research made possible through the donation of brain tissue has already led to major advances in the understanding of Parkinson’s disease. Which resulted in new treatments being developed and tested for the 127,000 people suffering from the incurable disease.

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