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Brain tissue shortage threatens research

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A shortage of healthy brains being donated for medical research is impeding the development of treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's, scientists at the British Association Science Festival in Dublin heard yesterday.

Dr Kirstin Goldring, who manages the UK Parkinson's Disease Society Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, told delegates that for every 25 Parkinson's-affected brain donated to medical science, just one healthy brain makes it to the research labs.

She called on more people to consider registering for brain donation schemes, saying that everyone can play a role in fighting incapacitating diseases, like Parkinson's.

According to a BBC report, she said: "We don't just need brains from people who have the disease, we need tissue from people that don't have the disease. In this way, we can compare what is going on in a normal, aging brain with what is happening in a diseased brain."

She argued that people seem to view brain donation differently to donating a heart or kidneys after death. "Many of us would consider donating our kidney or heart if we were to die suddenly, but would you consider donating your brain?" she asked. "If not, why not?"

Parkinson's disease, which affects around 120,000 people in the UK, and an estimated 6.3m people worldwide, is a degenerative disorder that gradually erodes a person's motor control. Symptoms generally start to appear when the patient is between 40 and 70 years of age; only 10 per cent of those affected are under 45. ®

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