MS Society, Parkinson’s UK Grant $3.6 Million to Digital Brain Bank

Alice Melão, MSc avatar

by Alice Melão, MSc |

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The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank at Imperial College London, the largest brain and tissue bank in Europe, will receive £1.5 million (about $1.82 million) from the U.K. MS Society.

This fund will support the development of a digital brain bank powered by a virtual reality platform, which will provide new tools for researchers around the world with the ultimate goal of stopping multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological diseases.

These new technologies will be used to create high-definition pictures of brain tissue donated by people with MS after their death.

“When the tissue bank first opened in 1998 there were practically no treatments for those affected. Things are very different now and it’s a privilege to work with an organization like the MS Society, which does everything it can to ensure the work of the scientific community reflects the needs of people living with MS,” Richard Nicholas, PhD, scientific director of the tissue bank, said in a press release.

“This investment will ensure all researchers have access to high quality brain and spinal cord tissue from people with MS, and marks an important development in the U.K. research landscape. We’re excited to see where it takes us,” Nicholas added.

The new-era tissue bank will grant researchers access to tissue images that can be studied extensively and indefinitely, and also will offer the opportunity to explore the brain’s structures in a 3-D interactive section.

Together with Parkinson’s UK, these two leading neurological charities will contribute a total of £3 million (about $3.6 million) over a period of five years.

“The MS Society Tissue Bank has been vital in improving our understanding of MS and finding treatments for some people with the condition. But our top priority now is finding treatments to slow or stop MS for everyone,” said Sorrel Bickley, PhD, head of biomedical research at MS Society.

This new virtual database gives researchers the opportunity to develop innovative projects in which they can combine virtual tissue data with genetic analysis in an easy and more efficient way, and help define how genetic landscape can affect MS and Parkinson’s progression.

“We can see a future where nobody needs to worry about MS getting worse, but for that to happen we urgently need to find treatments that repair myelin — the protective layer that surrounds our nerves, which is damaged in MS, and protect the nerves from damage. This funding will allow researchers to operate as effectively as possible, and ultimately help us stop MS faster,” Bickley said.

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