The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking to foster expedited research on brain disorders through a new biospecimens biorepository that will offer a “one-stop” shop for brain tissue used for research. The new NIH NeuroBioBank initiative, which was announced in December, will be a user-friendly web-based resource that will consolidate five leading brain banks toward a tissue-sharing network for the neuroscience community.
The idea follows a similar system that is already in place in Europe.
Thomas Insel, MD, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), explained the current process for obtaining biospecimens, particularly for brain tissue for the study of neurological disorders, and what NeuroBioBank seeks to accomplish: “Instead of having to seek out brain tissue needed for a study from scattered repositories, researchers will have one-stop access to the specimens they need.
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The initiative, which is being funded by the NIMH, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, will feature brain tissue biospecimens from five leading brain banks, including Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Harvard University, the University of Miami, Sepulveda Research Corporation, Los Angeles, and the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, these brain and tissue biorepositories develop their biospecimens through brain donations, store the brain tissue, and distribute it to qualified researchers seeking to understand the causes of and identify treatments and cures for neurologic diseases. These brain banks, together with the NIH NeuroBioBank effort, will not only continue to seek abnormal brain tissue biospecimens for various neurological diseases, but also normal specimens for control purposes as well.
“The NIH NeuroBioBank will offer economies of scale, increase availability of biospecimens, establish a standardized system, and raise public awareness of the importance of human brain research,” said NICHD director Alan Guttmacher, MD. Other brain banks are encouraged to partner with the NeuroBioBank, by making their inventories available via the centralized Web site, he added.