Evolution of Human Brain Bank: Past & Present A Brief Report

Studies on the central Nervous System are fuelled by Human Brain Bank in the last 20 years-Dr K S Meena Asst prof _dept of Mental Health _NIMHANS_8th Feb 2016 - (2)significant interest among the researchers to understand the complexity of its function in health and disease and develop diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. Though our understanding of brain function and diseases has progressed, many endeavours have not reached their logical end, since the experimental results based on animal models, have not been validated in human system. The invivo and invitro experimental models cannot be a substitute to the holistic human biology due to species barrier and significant differences in molecular mechanisms and genetic diversity. This gap was strongly realised during the “Brain Storming Session in Neurobiology”, conducted at NIMHANS in 1988. Prof. P.N..Tandon, a well known neurosurgeon and Neuroscientist from AIIMS, New Delhi, has sown the seeds to establish a Human Brain Bank in India. This was meant to subserve as a ‘research core facility’ to collect, store, annotate and provide human nervous tissue, CSF and Serum from individuals with neurological diseases to the neuroscientists and promote neuroscience research in the country. It took nearly ten years to realise the dream convincing the funding agencies to provide financial assistance. The first and the only Human Brain Bank was started at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), under the supervision and management of Department of Neuropathology, Dr.S.K.Shankar as the Principal Co-ordinator. In 1998, Dr.Anita Mahadevan joined as a Research Officer in Brain Bank and continued as Associate Co-ordinator after becoming a faculty in the Department of Neuropathology. Mr.Suresh Kumar Parmar, trained Physiotherapist and a Post Graduate in Anatomy and M.Phil Neurophysiology joined the team and is actively involved in the management of Brain Bank. Both Dr.Anita Mahadevan and Mr.Suresh Kumar Parmar are actively involved in promoting Cadaver Brain Donation and promote neuroscience in the school and college students. The team from Brain Bank participates in various scientific exhibitions in the state along with local volunteers.

Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology and ICMR together provided one time grant of
43 lakh rupees for the initial period of 5 years (1995-2000)
(DST- Rs.16,00,000, DBT-17,00,000; ICMR-Rs.10,00,000),
NIMHANS commitment to this project was

(a) New mortuary building – Rs.18,00,000
(b) Special cold storage facility for the bodies – Rs.8,00,000
(c) Autopsy tables – Rs.4,00,000human brain bank1
(d) Special power generator line – Rs.2,00,000
(e) One Junior Technician and one Mortuary Attender Following initial external funding NIMHANS has taken over the responsibility of financing this core facility from the Plan Budget of the Institute.

The research facility was inaugurated by Sri.P.G.R.Sindhia, Hon’ble Home Minister, Govt of Karnataka, Prof.S.M.Channabasavanna being the Director of the Institute. Initially, it was located in three small rooms in the rear part of Central Animal Research Facility, NIMHANS. In the year 2012, it was shifted to Room No.004 (Ground Floor) of human brain bank2 Neurobiology Research Centre, being inaugurated on 2nd July, 2012 by Ms.Sujaya Krishnan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India. The human neurons tissue (brain/spinal cord) is collected from the dead, with written informed consent of legal heirs. In addition cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and heart blood are collected in anticoagulant to separate the serum/plasma and leucocyte pellet for DNA extraction and are stored at -80oC in a deep freezer. Brains from individuals with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Motor Neuron Disease, bacterial and viral diseases like tuberculous meningitis, fungal infections of nervous system (Cryptococcus, Aspergillosis, Zygomycosis etc), tropical viral infections like JE, HSV, CMV, Rabies, HIV and JCV, Parasitic infections human brain bank3like neurocysticercosis, cerebral toxoplasmosis, cerebral amoebiasis, neurological disorders like epilepsy, alcoholism and psychiatric disorders are collected and part of the brain is frozen and the other way is fixed in formalin for histological evaluation and establish the diagnosis.

The awareness of brain donation has increased significantly in the society and 34 senior citizens willed to donate the brains and the brains were collected at autopsy, within 4-24 hrs after death till date.

In the last 20 years…
(1995- 2015)

  • 210 brains frozen (head injury, neuroinfections, neurodegenerative and demyelinating disorders) with paired CSF/serum
  • 123 HIV positive brain tissues (largest collection in India)
  • 293 brain biopsies (epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases) frozen
  • CSF- 1501, Serum -1154, Plasma -377
  • DNA Banking 938 samples (major user: Neurology)
  • Brain onation – 34
  • Cadaveric hearts for homograft valve transplantation -1125
  • Four diagnostic kits for tropical infections were developed at NIMHANS utilizing the CSF/serum samples as gold standard controls for definitive diagnosis.
  • 52 projects were supported –Research grant of Rs.11 crores was received by the investigators
  • 98 publications utilizing material from Human Brain Bank

Attempts are being made to develop networking with major hospitals in the city to facilitate the brain donation. In addition, cadaveric heart valves are regularly collected for homograft transplantation for cardiac patients in the city. During the past 10 years, 1125 hearts are collected and utilized giving a new lease of life to the individuals with disease related to heart valves. Keeping pace with advancements in Bio-banking, facility for electronic tagging and retrieved technology is

being introduced to facilitate effective storage and distribution facility. The brain tissue is provided to the investigators free of charge honouring the philanthropic spirit of the donor. Having realised the sustainability of Human Brain Bank at NIMHANS for nearly two decades, with active sensitisation and enrolling the public for the philanthropic brain donation, DTB- Govt of India is planning to establish Human Brain Bank, Human Bio-bank and Cancer Tissue Bank at different centres in India to promote translational research in medical field. Brain Bank has been managing CJD Registry (Prion Disease) from 1998, to keep record of the cases with this rare disease in the country and provide diagnostic facility to all the hospitals. Utilizing the material collected at autopsy,Neuropathology Human Brain Museum is established, an unique scientific and teaching facility in South East Asia, to promote neuroscience. This has become very popular with school children, college students and general public.

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Proposed Work for coming years

  • Work in Progress: Atlas of Human Neuroanatomy & Neurohistology.
  • Digitized web based e-museum of specimen with brief clinical details will be made accessible through a dedicated website
  • Conduct guided tours of Human Brain Museum to spread awareness of human nervous system both in health and disease to school/college students, health professionals and general public.
  • Training of Trainees: Conduct workshops to train high school Biology Teachers.
  • Teaching students Neuroanatomy & Neuropathology and popularize autopsy services.

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Dr.S.K.Shankar, MD, FAMS, FNASc

Emeritus Professor, Neuropathology

Principal Co-ordinator

Human Brain Tissue Repository (HBTR)

NIMHANS, Bangalore – 560029

Tel: 080-26995786, 26563357

Email: shankarsk2004@gmail.com

Dr.Anita Mahadevan, MD,DNB

Additional Professor, Dept of Neuropathology

& Associate Co-ordinator

Human Brain Tissue Repository (HBTR)

NIMHANS, Bangalore – 560029

Tel: 080-26995137

Email: anita_mahadevan@yahoo.com


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We thank

•MORTUARY STAFF for their unstinted support
•Departments of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry for promoting clinical autopsies.
•Departments of Neurochemistry, Neuromicrobiology, Neurovirology, Neurophysiology, Neurotoxicology for technical support and research.

India: IISC, JNC, NBRC (Gurgaon), University of Hyderabad, Institute of Bioinformatics, Centre for Neuroscience, CFTRI (Mysore), IIT (Kanpur), SGPGI (Lucknow), KMIO, Manipal Hospital (Bangalore), TIFR (Mumbai), SCTIMST (Kerala), Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (Trivandrum), FMR (Mumbai), CMC (Vellore), NBRC (Haryana) & National center for Chemical Biology (Kolkata) etc.
Foreign: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Stanley Foundation (USA), Johns Hopkins Hospital Baltimore & NIH (USA) etc.

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