Sunday , November 29 2020

"We need their brain": Contribute to brain bank in search of cure for dementia science

It's a rainy Wednesday morning and Dr. Andrew Appelak is driving more carefully than usual on his way to the Neuroscience Research Building in Brandwick.

Not only the slippery, crowded roads put the edge on his caution. In the trunk of his car, which is decorated with several layers of a protective container in the ice, is the brain of a man who lived only a few hours earlier.

It's not a normal mind-so to speak, every brain is normal-but one that has a deadly secret buried in it. The person who until recently was embodied in this mass of pink, gray, and white tissues died from a disease of neurodegenerative diseases which is increasingly the cause of death for our aging population. Perhaps it was Alzheimer's disease that gradually pushed their connection to reality, or frontomotor dementia that changed their personality, or Parkinson's disease that shook their bodies and minds.

Andrew Affleck.

Everything that claimed their lives, this organ is on its way to the Sydney Brain Bank.


"I really hope it's the brain that will put us on the line," says Aplek. At the brain bank of Sydney, located in Nuerra, the hope is that scientists will be able to glean a new and vital insight from their text. And perhaps, one day, this insight will lead to better understanding, better treatment, or even cure.

"Every donation, to return the tissue to the laboratory, I tell myself, I very much hope that this is the turning point," says Aplek, a research fellow at the Sydney Brain Bank.

"It's really exciting, and you get to do the best you can, not just science, but the family itself."

Adele Lawson, research assistant, is preparing paraffin tissue embedded parts for staining. The brain bank is located in Randwick, NSW, Australia.

The interior of the Sydney Brain Bank looks like a typical research facility: carpeted offices with glass, and laboratories with all available space full of equipment, glassware and folders, but everything is clean and neat. There are no brains in jars or any Hollywood decoration, which might give the visitor a sense of these 600 brains – and some spinal cords – passed by the scientists here.

A few floors below the glittering labs, in a basement that is usually reached through a goods elevator, is a room the size of a typical conference room. It is full of portable shelves that can be separated and moved at the touch of a button.

The shelves are lined with sealed white plastic buckets, each containing a half-brain preserved in formalin. Dr. Clare Sheppard, head of Sydney's brain bank, almost apologizes for it.

"Buckets do not look very glamorous or scientific, but years of experience have told us that they are the best vehicle to store the brain," she explains.

The room is controlled at a temperature favorable temperature, and is completely quiet except for a few electronic beeps as the powered shelves are moved apart. It's a peaceful place; Like being in a room full of deep sleep.

The other halves of each of these stored brains are stored up in very low springs at 80 degrees Celsius.

The Sydney Brain Bank is one of many such facilities throughout Australia and worldwide that aims to collect brain and spinal cord tissue from people infected with a variety of diseases and conditions. This tissue is available to researchers who seek answers to the questions of why these diseases occur, how they progress, and what can be done to treat, stop or prevent them.

The focus of the Sydney Brain Bank is neurodegenerative diseases; Especially the demantics and movement disorders – such as Parkinson's disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington's disease and advanced paralysis.

The brain donation is another animal for organ donation, no less than that one is for transplantation while the other is for research.

"A lot of people just think it's on the card of their organ donation, and they ask me, 'Can I donate to my brain because I'm an organ donor?'" Sheppard says. But brain donation is much more complex because for scientists to get the most information from the donated tissue, they need to know about the donor's life before they die.

The donors connected to the Sydney Brain Bank are recruited through a network of neurologists and specialist clinics in Sydney, who collect standard data on their patients, such as their medical histories and their unique history and disease features. These data include normal blood and imaging tests with technology such as MRI.

"So the value of the tissue is really enriched, because we not only have tissues but we have all this information about how a person looks alive, and that's standard information about groups of people as well," says Shepard.

Andrew Affleck, Removing Embroidery Cracks From Auto Blot Slides.

However, the donor's personal identity and life are hidden from the team and researchers who work with the tissue. It must be so, not only for reasons of privacy, but also for the benefit of the brain care staff that has been donated.

Sheppard mentions the family member of a deceased donor who sent a homemade brochure to the bank about the life of the donor and who they are. Seeing the picture of the donor's life was a deep emotional experience for Sheppard, and this feeling is still very close to the surface.

"I am the guardian of brain tissue," she says. "It does not mean I'm not sensitive to who it is, of course, but I do not have a close relationship and it would be dangerous if I think it will affect me on this level every day."


Time is the enemy of organ donation. The longer the organ is organized – whether it is a heart, kidney, or brain – remains in a body that no longer supplies oxygen with life, so the amount of tissue is reduced so that the quality of the information can be gleaned from it.

Andrew Affleck, Removing Embroidery Cracks From Auto Blot Slides.

Laboratory lab coats.

The Sydney Brain Bank team keeps track of them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When the donor dies, one of the first calls made by the family, caregivers or medical staff is that the replacement service.

Things have to happen quickly. The person who called then communicates with the dead where he will take the body, and with the funeral.

"One of the main things we aspire to do is not interfere with the family's funeral arrangements … As best we can, we are trying to speed up the donation for them, so there is no delay," Affleck explains.

Brain removal – and the spinal cord if donated – takes place in one of the few remaining death stores in Sydney. It is a relatively fast process, a few hours at most, so Affleck or who is on the call takes the tissue back to the brain bank.

Once it reaches, the brain is divided into two hemispheres. Half is frozen, along with tissue samples that are dissected from brain regions that are of particular interest to researchers. The frozen tissue can be studied under the microscope, but more importantly, the freeze preserves the DNA, protein, and biochemistry of the tissue.

Adele Lawson, research assistant, is preparing paraffin tissue embedded parts for staining.

The other half of the brain is immersed in formaldehyde for two weeks, allowing liquid matter to penetrate fully into the brain. After this process, the hemisphere is stored in sections of 3 mm layers on delicate sheets of acetate, in white buckets that rows the basement shelves.At this point the brain bank team also take smaller samples, or "blocks", from different parts of the brain that are Interested in learning more.

"There may be a softening or having tissue discolouration or having something that really needs another investigation under the microscope," says Affleck. These smaller segments are also treated with a variety of spots that highlight the presence – or absence – of proteins and structures.

The last step is a complete, standard report that together what the brain bank has seen on the tissue with what was known about the donor's life and disease.This information is the starting point for researchers interested in studying the tissue. Slides, tissue samples, and data sheets are the answer they're looking for.


What about the donors and their families? What are they looking for when they mark this box and agree to their personal organ or their favorite after death?

Lucille Bloch never heard of a brain donation until she took part in a lecture by Professor John Hodge, who heads a research group at Nuwara.

Lucille Bloch inherited her mind to Sydney Bank. Her husband, Keith Bloch, too, had donated his brain.

A black and white photograph of Lucille and Keith Bloch.

Keith Bloch, who died, also donated his brain.

"He said that dementia is growing in numbers, we need to think about creating a cure for dementia, and what we need is people with dementia, after they have died, we need their brains," she recalls.

Lucille's husband, Keith, was diagnosed with frontal dementia. After the lecture she sat down with him and told him what she had learned.

"And he said," Well, my dear, we currently have four children, and two grandchildren, I will give my mind because I want to help, if our children will accept it and other people [get it].

Keith died 10 years ago, but Lucille still visits Neura occasionally. "I'm part of it," she says. Experience has made it supportive of brain donation, and awareness and understanding of dementia. When her time comes, she will also contribute her mind.

Lisa Webb's husband, Bob, died two years ago of what was diagnosed as progressive primary aphasia – a gradual loss of language ability. However, it was actually a symptom of Parkinson's disease, a diagnosis that was not revealed until after his death.

Shortly after Bob's diagnosis, the subject of brain donation increased during a visit to Nivara for tests.

"For him, the brain was only part of the body, he was always happy to donate organs, and the brain was just another organ," says Lisa. "I guess I have the same outlook.I looked at it and thought, if there is something we can do to help other people do not have to go through it, then let's do it."

The thought that Bob's tissues reside somewhere in Sydney's brain bank and helps researchers give her a sense of comfort.

"I have this part that comes out, in fact, it does not really disappear, as if it's still doing well, and it's a very nice thing to hold on to."

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