Queensland Brain Bank set to close; future of 600 donor brains uncertain

A leading brain research program in Queensland, which has been run by volunteers since March this year, will close its doors due to funding cuts.

The Queensland Brain Bank has conducted research into Alzheimer's, brain damage and brain structure, and holds 600 brains and tissue from donors.

The facility, based at the University of Queensland (UQ), had been relying on research grants from Australia and the United States.

Queensland Brain Bank director Dr Peter Dodd said funding ceased earlier this year.

"That was terminated at the end of last year and the consequence of that is we haven't had sufficient funds to be able to continue our operations from March of this year," he told 612 ABC Brisbane's Steve Austin.

Dr Dodd said many staff worked voluntarily for months to keep the facility going.

"People contact us when they wish to leave their brain to science for research purposes and we try to honour that as closely as we can," he said.

"We had a co-ordinator, Dr Naomi Etheridge, but after the last cancellation of funding we couldn't continue employing her here.

"She had been working voluntarily for sometime in the hope we could resolve the situation."

Keeping brains and tissue stored

Currently the donor brains and tissues are being stored in freezers at UQ.

"If we can manage to get some funding we can be back in operation as fast as we can," Dr Dodd said.

"I have a brain bank that I can't take deposits or issue tissue from it as we don't have the personnel that we need.

"When we were in full operation we would receive two or three brains a week on occasion, sometimes more."

Dr Dodd has been assured by UQ that while he continues to work at the university the brains and tissue will remain to be stored.

"Once my own position comes to an end, there's no way we can go on with this circumstance," he said.

"We would have to go through the process of having to write to every one of our donors and all the perspective donors and tell them we can't go through with it.

"We would need at least $250,000 a year to remain open."

He said the process has been distressing for people hoping to donate too.

"When someone makes the commitment to say they are leaving their remains to science and research it's a big commitment that the family makes," Dr Dodd said.

"There's usually a lot of soul searching before they come to that decision, to then tell them we can't ... it's very distressing for them."

Source: ABC News

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