There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, and this figure is set to double in the next 30 years. Dementia has a huge impact on a person’s life and is one of society’s most urgent health and social care challenges. Despite this, treatment for dementia is very limited and there is no cure.
Human tissue is vital for dementia research but is currently in short supply and is not covered in standard organ donation schemes. With the support of Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK, Brains for Dementia Research was set up in 2007 to establish a network of brain bank facilities across England and Wales.
It is now a ‘gold standard’ for brain tissue banking, linking six leading centres (based in London, Oxford, Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester and Cardiff) in a network of common standards, best practice and cooperation. This lays the foundation to enable the highest quality dementia research, which aims to find a cure for dementia.
In each bank, people with mild cognitive impairment or a diagnosis of dementia, and healthy participants, are supported to donate their brain by specialist research nurses.
This initiative is unique from other brain banks, as the memory, thinking and behaviour of each prospective donor are monitored throughout their later life through regular assessments. This provides researchers with a complete medical history to accompany the donated brain tissue, allowing them to see how brain changes correlate with symptoms.