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Acta Neuropathol. 2008 May;115(5):497-507. doi: 10.1007/s00401-008-0360-8. Epub 2008 Mar 26.

Management of a twenty-first century brain bank: experience in the BrainNet Europe consortium.

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  • 1Department of Pathology (Neuropathology), University of Edinburgh, Wilkie Building, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, UK.


Collections of human postmortem brains gathered in brain banks have underpinned many significant developments in the understanding of central nervous system (CNS) disorders and continue to support current research. Unfortunately, the worldwide decline in postmortem examinations has had an adverse effect on research tissue procurement, particularly from control cases (non-diseased brains). Recruitment to brain donor programmes partially addresses this problem and has been successful for dementing and neurodegenerative conditions. However, the collection of brains from control subjects, particularly from younger individuals, and from CNS disorders of sudden onset, remains a problem. Brain banks need to adopt additional strategies to circumvent such shortages. The establishment of brain bank networks allows data on, and access to, control cases and unusual CNS disorders to be shared, providing a larger resource for potential users. For the brain banks themselves, inclusion in a network fosters the sharing of protocols and development of best practice and quality control. One aspect of this collective experience concerns brain bank management, excellence in which is a prerequisite not only for gaining the trust of potential donors and of society in general, but also for ensuring equitable distribution to researchers of high quality tissue samples. This review addresses the legal, ethical and governance issues, tissue quality, and health and safety aspects of brain bank management and data management in a network, as well as the needs of users, brain bank staffing, donor programs, funding issues and public relations. Recent developments in research methodology present new opportunities for researchers who use brain tissue samples, but will require brain banks to adopt more complex protocols for tissue collection, preparation and storage, with inevitable cost implications for the future.

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