Multiple sclerosis damages human brains, so MS researchers often study mice brains. How can multiple sclerosis be cured or prevented without studies of human brains? Researchers need the anatomical bequests of MS brains.
Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center
Harvard University specifically collects and studies brains (and brain tissue), including those with multiple sclerosis. The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBRTC) accepts brains with and without disorders.
Preregistration allows the best chance of a successful donation. Time is crucial because brains must be iced within six hours of death, and transported to HBRTC within 24 hours.
Anatomical donations in my city
Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic, includes medical school training that uses whole body donation. I have signed up to donate. One big plus for donors, besides giving future doctors actual experience with real human bodies, is free cremation after completion. While you can still have your ashes returned to your family for burial, they also offer a group burial with other donors at no charge.
However, at the present time, they do not allow for brains to be separated for use in a biobank like the HBTRC. There are several reasons for this. First, in order to take out the brain, it requires an autopsy — a time-critical autopsy, as noted above. Then, because the integrity of the whole body could be considered compromised from one point of view, the rest of the body (incorrectly in my opinion) is deemed unacceptable for medical students.
Because the Mayo Clinic is in my hometown, it has a majority of my medical records to go along with my body. I had back surgery here when I was 12 years old (broken back). Even without my brain, the opportunity to study a spinal fusion decades later seems pretty darn valuable to me.
Why I plan to donate
My mother died last year (94 years old with dementia, but she knew me to her peaceful end). She donated her body to the Mayo Clinic, and I received her ashes and buried them a few days ago. There will be a ceremony in the spring where I will be able to meet some of the doctors who benefited from this gift. My mother’s death may save lives in the future.
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