As a runner-up in our 2017 Max Perutz Science Writing Award, PhD student Sophie Quick, of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, explains why her research – focused on a condition called small vessel disease which can cause dementia – matters.
Strawberry picking might not seem like the place for scientific inspiration, but on a warm summers day just weeks into my PhD, I returned not just with a punnet of Scotland’s finest fruits but a new take on my research. Sheltered by a gently flapping plastic roof I bent to pluck a handful of ripe berries, spotted fine tubes running along the soil and was struck by an idea.
Susan Jonas helped to donate her aunt’s brain to medical research in 2013, an experience that inspired her to sign up to donate her own brain after her death. Here she explains the process around donating her aunt’s brain, and why she believes contributing to brain research in this way is so important.
I hadn’t thought much about brain donation until I saw in my aunt’s will that she wanted to donate her body to medical research. I had seen her will because I had enduring power of attorney over her affairs – otherwise I wouldn’t recommend stating such a wish in a will because by the time wills are usually read it would be too late to act.
My aunt was a lovely lady who moved to live near me in her 80s. She went into residential care after her behaviour began to grow a little odd and it became obvious that she couldn’t live on her own.
I knew she wasn’t going to live forever, so began to look into how to make sure her wishes could be met. She was a person who liked helping others in her lifetime and it seemed fitting that she would continue to help people in her death. Read more
There are more than 12,000 brains stored and ready for use by researchers in ten banks across the country ― and they’re easier to access than you might think. Here Dr L. Miguel Martins from the MRC Toxicology Unit explains what he gets out of working with brain tissue and provides some tips for researchers starting out.
Miguel (second from right) and his team.
I found out about the availability of deceased human brain tissue for my work because I have long-term collaborations ― since at least 2003 ― with colleagues at the UCL Institute of Neurology, which supports the Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Disorders, part of the UK Brain Banks Network.
My team’s research focuses on studying the genetics and cell signalling networks involved in Parkinson’s disease. I see using human brain tissue as being able to come full circle: Parkinson’s is a human disease which we investigate using animal models of the disease, and then validate in brain tissue donated by patients with Parkinson’s. Read more