Prague, Czech Republic – The first brain bank in Central and Eastern Europe recently opened in Prague, local media reported.
Located in the Thomayer University Hospital, the medical facility houses brain tissue donated for biomedical research from patients who died after suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The main goal of the brain bank is to conduct research in view of finding a potential cure or creating new drugs to treat the most common neurodegenerative conditions.
“The storage of brain tissue for scientific purposes is codified worldwide,” Robert Rusina, the head of the hospital’s neurology clinic, explained to Radio Prague. “You have to have the patient’s consent. In case the patient cannot give it due to a deteriorated condition, a family member can sign the consent in his or her place.”
The facility for now only contains a few dozens of brain tissue samples, but M. Rusina hopes to eventually be able to conduct research on thousands of them, and start cooperating with the wide network of European brain banks to coordinate research, share findings and lend each other samples.
The first brain banks as we understand them today appeared in the 1960s, thriving over the next decades mainly in the US, Western Europe and Australia. Following strict ethical, social and legal guidelines for the recruitment of donours and collection of brain tissue samples, they are now seen as instrumental in furthering our understanding of how the human brain works and key to finding cures to the most common neurological diseases.
Approximately 160,000 people are suffering from dementia-related diseases in the Czech Republic today, but experts have warned that this figure could double by 2050 due to the ageing of the population. The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s affects around 50 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with almost 10 million new cases every year.
Around 10 million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease around the world.
You can find more information about the project on its website (only in Czech).