Irish researchers want ‘live’ brain samples for neuroscience

26 Jul 2023


A new project aims to provide live brain biosamples to a network of labs in Ireland and the UK to help researchers learn more about diseases in the nervous system.

Researchers in Ireland and the UK are working to get access to high-quality biosamples of human brains to boost neuroscience research and benefit patients.

A team at Trinity College Dublin is working with the University of Oxford on the UK Brain BioLink project, which is connecting multiple labs in an effort to improve neuropathology – the study of disease in nervous system tissue.

The Trinity researchers said the current approach of collecting brain tissue from donors to investigate nervous system disorders does not offer what neuroscientists need, as it is focused on non-living nervous tissue that is taken after death.

The team also claimed current approaches are focused more on the end stages of neurodegeneration and are not technology driven.

The new collaborative project aims to give labs rapid access to high quality, “live” human brain biosamples to provide more data for neuroscience research. The labs are based in Dublin, Aston, Oxford and Southampton.

By providing this lab network with regular live tissues, it is hoped they will be able to better define normal and abnormal function of the human nervous system.

Trinity’s Prof Mark Cunningham is the designated lead for the new network and said the work will benefit patients by “improving the approaches by which new drugs can be developed for conditions such as epilepsy and other diseases of the human nervous system”.

The Brain Biolink project is expected to run until 2026 and is being funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council.

Efforts have been made in recent years to treat certain nervous system diseases like epilepsy. In 2018, an international team of researchers demonstrated that a small device implanted in the brain had the potential to detect, stop and even prevent epileptic seizures.

In the previous year, Prof Madeleine Lowery spoke to about her work on modelling the brain, nerves and muscles to help treat tremors in Parkinson’s disease.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic