The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center at McLean Hospital, also known as the Brain Bank, has signed a new, potentially $12.8 million contract with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that allows it to continue to collect brain specimens from donors with a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS).
The McLean Hospital Brain Bank is one of the six such “banks” in the NIH NeuroBioBank, which is a resource for researchers across the U.S. It gives them access to postmortem brain tissue samples and related biospecimens for use in their studies.
NIH banks have gathered more than 9,000 donated brain specimens from patients with various diseases, as well as from healthy people whose brain tissues serve as experimental controls.
“Research on samples from donors with brain disorders allows us to understand what changes occur in the brains of people who suffer from these conditions, and to help develop effective therapies,” Sabina Berretta, MD, director of McLean Hospital’s Brain Bank and the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory, said in a press release.
A better understanding of what is happening on a biological level in the brains of people with psychiatric disorders also helps to fight public misconceptions about them, she added.
“Psychiatric disorders are often mistakenly understood as ‘psychological’ or ‘behavioral’ disorders: conditions without a biological underpinning. This erroneous view leads to the stigma associated with these disorders, which are often seen as character flaws as opposed to what they really are, disorders of the brain — no different than disorders that affect other organs, such as heart conditions,” Berretta said.
The new contract, which totals $12.8 million, runs for one year (Sept. 1, 2019 to Aug. 31, 2020; with a four-year extension option) and specifies that its funds will be released over the next five years.
Funding for each subsequent year is dependent on the previous year’s performance and NIH funding availability.
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