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Brain and Spinal Cord Donation

Why we need Brain and Spinal Cord Tissue

Projects using human brain and spinal cord tissue are essential to understanding the biochemical changes that cause damage and thus the symptoms of MND. We do have a tissue bank within the medical school at the University of Sheffield that we use for our research programme into MND. Tissue donation plays a pivotal role in MND research. Many areas of research require careful examination of parts of the body which are often affected by MND. Researchers believe that changes found in the CNS can help explain the causes of MND and may provide vital clues about how to combat the disease.

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).

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 and you should contact the MND helpline below. By comparing these tissues researchers are able to 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 better if you can make arrangements well in advance. This allows you time to discuss your wishes with family, your next of kin and health care professionals. Tissue obtained soon after death is of greatest value to the researcher and it can make a difficult time easier if arrangements have been made beforehand.

Once you have expressed an interest in donating your brain and spinal cord tissue to a member of the MND care Team you will receive a letter informing you about the process for the future. You need to ensure that your family/friends and anyone involved in your medical or nursing care, including your general practitioner, are aware of your wishes. 

At the appropriate time someone should contact Professor Shaw or one of her team within the Neurology Department at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield.  Between 9am and 5pm on weekdays the MND Helpline (telephone number 0114 222 2266) can be contacted for assistance in arrangements for a donation.  Out of hours or at weekends, the person ringing should be able to get through to Professor Shaw via the Royal Hallamshire Hospital switchboard (telephone number 0114 271 1900). 

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 or your family/friends do have any further queries about this or would like more information then please do not hesitate to telephone the Sheffield MND Helpline on 0114 222 2266.


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