The future of the Sydney Brain Bank is at risk.

Our brain is a fascinating and complex organ. It allows us to feel, think and remember the people and experiences that make us who we are. Isn’t that something we need to protect?

Your gift today will help save the Sydney Brain Bank

 

Twenty years ago, Judi and Ilana’s father Leo sadly passed away from dementia. He asked his daughters to donate his brain to science. He knew that giving this precious gift would help further research into the debilitating neurodegenerative disease. It would prevent families from living through the kind of suffering Leo and his family experienced. This brought them to the Sydney Brain Bank at NeuRA.

“Dad was devastated when his mind started to fail and the world became a confusing and scary place for him. His greatest wish, while his cognition still allowed him to think about it, was that his two daughters would never have to go through anything like what he was experiencing,” Judi said.

Twenty years later, Judi and Ilana are happy to know their father is still making such an important contribution. Researchers are still learning from his brain tissue, which is housed at the Sydney Brain Bank.

“In some ways it makes us feel like he is still around, being useful. He would be delighted with that.”

However, a drastic cut to external funding means this vital research resource is at risk. Access to very high-quality post-mortem brain tissue, made possible by the generous and far-sighted gifts of Leo and over 700 others to date, will be severely diminished. As a result, research outcomes which help to understand the basis of neurodegeneration and may lead to disease intervention or prevention will also be diminished. We can’t let this happen.

There is no escaping that neurodegenerative disorders are on the rise with our increased ageing population.

We have no effective treatments for them, and we don’t know how to prevent them. So we need these carefully curated and preserved human tissues – the tissue that the disease has actually occurred in – to be able to study what goes wrong in that disease process.

As one of the few remaining brain banks in Australia, the Sydney Brain Bank provides neurological tissues for research, not just here but also around the world. Scientists and clinicians need access to brains to unlock the mystery of a range of devastating neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and motor neurone disease.

As an independent, not-for-profit research institute, NeuRA relies heavily on Government grants to continue operating, as well as donations from the public. Government and university support for funding essential research infrastructure such as the Sydney Brain Bank has recently and unexpectedly all but dried up, leaving NeuRA as the only funding source for the Brain Bank. This is why we so urgently need your help.

Leo gave us a unique gift that has immeasurable value. Every brain donated does the same. The highly skilled specialist team at the Bank understand this and through their work, amplify this value.

The team provides an ‘on-call’ service for brain tissue collection at any time, day or night. Collecting brains and spinal cord is a very time-sensitive and labour intensive task that requires highly specialised skills.

The work doesn’t stop once the tissue has been collected. We need to characterise and maintain the integrity of the tissue samples over time. Staff take responsibility for processing requests for tissue handling, disbursing tissue samples and monitoring the outcomes of research projects. They also engage in recruitment programs, help donors and their families understand informed consent and give researchers important details about the brain’s
condition.

In a beautiful way, Brain Bank staff also give families closure, sharing what is often a more detailed and accurate picture of what was happening to their loved one’s brain. The team is extremely passionate about the vital research that is made possible through the Brain Bank and the impact that this research has had and could have on so many lives.

Each brain that supports multiple research studies costs around $10,000 to collect, characterise and preserve. Between the costs of specialist staff and consumables, it takes close to $600,000 per year to keep the Sydney Brain Bank running to international best practice standards.

Without this level of funding, the Sydney Brain Bank’s quality of service to the research community will be severely compromised. The Bank will have to drastically reduce the depth and breadth of its services, starving the research effort with devastating effect for all those people whose lives will be touched by themselves or a loved one being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease.

The work and research undertaken at the Sydney Brain Bank doesn’t ever stop, even in the face of a global pandemic. Despite the difficulties and restrictions of COVID-19, through strenuous efforts staff were still collecting and sending tissue samples around the world, to places as far away as Sweden and South Korea.

Over the past decade, researchers globally have made use of more than 36,000 specimens of donated neurological tissue from the Sydney Brain Bank in over 250 studies.

We cannot afford to let this essential research service dwindle away.

Without the Brain Bank, without funding, we lose specialised knowledge. We lose access to the tissue that has been collected, which means some of the best medical minds in Australia and around the world will lose the ability to do the research. This delays and impedes the discovery of pathways to earlier and more accurate diagnosis, treatments, and even prevention of these brain diseases which are now such a feature of our longer lifespan.

You are a vital part of the Sydney Brain Bank team.

 

Your tax-deductible donation will help ensure that the Sydney Brain Bank continues to facilitate vital research in the field.

All gifts over $2 are tax deductible.

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