Brain and spinal cord donation

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What do we mean by tissue?

Tissue is the word used for a collection of specialised cells within the human body that perform a specific job. All organs are made up of tissue. Researchers investigating MND are particularly interested in the whole of the brain, and spinal cord tissue. Collectively the brain and spinal cord is called the central nervous system (CNS).

Why we need brain and spinal cord tissue: tissue donation plays a pivotal role in MND research

Projects using human brain and spinal cord tissue are essential to understanding the biochemical changes that cause damage and therefore the symptoms of MND. Many areas of research require careful examination of parts of the body which are often affected by MND. Researchers believe that changes found within the brain and spinal cord can help explain the causes of MND and may provide vital clues about how to combat the disease.

We have a tissue bank within the medical school at the University of Sheffield which we use for our MND research programme.

Who can donate tissue?

We welcome donations from people who have MND. We will also consider donations from people without the disease, but this needs to be considered on an individual basis. By comparing these tissues researchers can study the damage caused by MND. Such information could lead to new diagnostic tests and strategies for treatment.

Funding is only available for local donations, but donations can be accepted from further afield if transport costs are covered by the family.

How can I arrange to donate my brain and spinal cord tissue?

If you are considering tissue donation, it is best if you can make arrangements well in advance. This allows you time to discuss your wishes with family, your next-of-kin and healthcare professionals. Tissue obtained soon after death is of greatest value to our researchers, and it can make a difficult time easier if arrangements have been made beforehand.

Contact a member of the MND care team if you would like to find out more about donating your brain and spinal cord tissue. We will provide you with an information sheet describing what donating would involve. If you decide it is something you would like to go ahead with, the team will talk you through everything and you can provide written consent for your tissue to be donated after your death.

You need to ensure that your family/friends and anyone involved in your care are aware of your wishes. At the appropriate time, someone should contact the Care Centre Coordinator for assistance in arrangements for the donation on 0114 222 2263. Once you have chosen a local funeral director (this can be done in advance), we can then make arrangements with them for rapid transportation through to Sheffield for the tissue donation. We will ensure that we do not hold up or interfere with the family arrangements.

If you, your family or friends do have any further queries about this or would like more information, then please contact the Care Centre Coordinator.