Brain Shortage Could Affect Research, British Expert Warns

by Gopalan on  January 7, 2009 at 8:39 PM Research News   - G J E 4
Brain Shortage Could Affect Research, British Expert Warns
A leading UK expert has warned that shortage of brains for research would affect further probe into conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease and autism.

Professor Paul Francis, from King's College London, said it was necessary for potential donors with healthy brains, as well as those suffering from either Alzheimer's or autism, to come forward.

At a press conference at the Science Media Centre in London, he said: ''There's a great opportunity to facilitate important research to discover cures and treatments which would go unfulfilled if we don't increase the number of brains available for research.''

There are currently only 20 brains in the UK that can be used to research autism and scientists want that number to reach 800.

Meanwhile academics looking to better understand Alzheimer's say they want some 300 people a year to donate their brains to help find cures and treatments for the disease.

At present there are only 30 brains which can be used at Oxford University to research Alzheimer's.

In the UK there are some 10,000 brains being dissected for scientific research but the problem facing academics is that donors are not coming forward with fresh organs.

There is also a shortage of healthy tissue samples to compare results against, with only about 10% of those 10,000 organs from healthy donors.

Researchers say that ideally this figure would be 33%.

Professor Margaret Esiri, from the University of Oxford, believes many people who would donate other organs feel cautious about giving their brain.

She said: ''I think many people are aware that their brain is the basis for their mind and their self. They are aware of themselves as an entity.

''I think it used to be other parts of the body we thought to be important but now people realise that their brain is the crucial thing that makes them their selves.''

Experts recognise it would be difficult to encourage people to come forward through the donor card system for transplants but think more could be done to increase the donations to medical science.

The Medical Research Council is currently looking to improve communication between the ten or so brain banks in the UK, Telegraph reported.

It also plans to set up a help line number for people looking to find out about the possibility of donating their brain.

Source: Medindia

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