The NIH announced the formation of a new brain and tissue repository network, NeuroBioBank, in order to create better access to post-mortem samples for those researchers studying brain disorders. Brain banks accept brain and tissue donations from people affect by brain diseases and from non-affected individuals, searching for changes that may offer insight into the cause of disorders such as essential tremor, depression, multiple sclerosis and autism.
Until now, brain banks were funded in a piece-meal sort of fashion; individual researchers requested funds for a specific disease or their specific bank. With this project, the NIH is looking to consolidate its funding efforts into a larger, more effective, standardized repository.
In September of 2013, contracts totaling $4.7 million were awarded to five brain bank repositories: Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; Harvard University in Cambridge, MA; University of Miami; Sepulveda Research Corp., Los Angeles; and the University of Pittsburgh. These banks have already begun developing a web-based sharing system that will allow the whole of the neuroscience community access to brain tissue samples and data, with a simple click of a mouse.
“Instead of having to seek out brain tissue needed for study from scattered repositories, researchers will have one-stop access to the specimens they need,” explained Thomas Insel, MD, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health.
Other brain banks, such as those funded by the IETF for the study of essential tremor, may become eligible to become contract sites of the NeuroBioBank in the future. In the meantime, the five current NeuroBioBank sites will soon be uploading their specimen inventories and clinical data (early 2014) so that researchers from around the globe can identify available specimens and further our understanding of the inner workings of brain and brain disorders.