One of the most compelling areas of medical research is aimed at understanding the human brain and what goes wrong in disease. Research using donated brain tissue has allowed scientists to answer important questions about many brain diseases and further their understanding of normal and abnormal workings of the human brain. Research findings help create new targeted therapies for fighting diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Many years of study, from multiple laboratories, has demonstrated that cell and animal models do not sufficiently replicate the pathways and course of the most devastating diseases we face. Therefore, the use of actual human tissue to confirm any preliminary findings from animal models is critical for any scientific advancement towards curing these neurodegenerative diseases. However, the limited supply of donated human brain tissues is directly related to the progress of understanding these conditions.
To address this need, the VCU Brain Tissue Resource Facility (brain Bank) was established. The Brain Tissue Resource Facility (BTRF) at VCU Health was established in 2010 and is dedicated to helping families of patients with neurodegenerative diseases by exploring the possibility of an autopsy and human brain tissue donation for research. By bringing together the efforts of professionals from different disciplines within the VCU Health community, the BTRF makes it possible for families to gain the information needed about their loved one’s disease and have peace of mind that their loved one will help to one day find a cure for these diseases.