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16 March 2015

Call for people to consider brain donation

The UK's first dedicated brain and tissue bank for epilepsy is calling for more people to consider joining the brain donation register. In 'Brain Awareness Week' (March 16-22) the charity Epilepsy Society, founders of the  Epilepsy Society Brain and Tissue Bank, are hoping to raise awareness of the value of brain tissue for epilepsy research.

More than half a million people in the UK have epilepsy and a third have seizures that cannot be controlled with anti-epileptic drugs. There are around 1,000 epilepsy-related deaths each year.

Develop treatments faster

Professor Sanjay Sisodiya, who leads the genetics research at Epilepsy Society, said:  'Other conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's have large tissue banks dedicated to research which have proved extremely valuable. Brain Awareness Week marks the first anniversary of the Epilepsy Society Brain and Tissue Bank.  We have already had a good response from people wanting to join the brain donation register - but the more we can raise awareness, the faster we may develop new treatments and cures. You do not need to have epilepsy to join the register  - we need to be able to compare and contrast the brains from people who had epilepsy with brains from people who did not.'

The facility, at the Institute of Neurology in London, is overseen by consultant neuropathologist Dr Maria Thom.

Promoting awareness

Dr Thom said:  'We've also been promoting awareness of the facility with pathologists and coroners. In many instances valuable brain tissue is not collected at the time of death because there is a lack of information regarding a route for donation. We have had considerable interest from coroners and pathologists in our first year as well as families. In addition our tissue resource is being used by many research groups in the  UK and beyond and in projects as varied as understanding the electrical activity of neurones in epilepsy to alterations in the brain that could be related to sudden death.'

More information about the project is available at www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/brainbank  or email epilepsybrainbank@ucl.ac.uk