The Target: The SWDBB receives up 46 brain donations a year, each costing approximately £2158 to retrieve, diagnose and prepare for use in research. Any funds donated will help us to continue this vital work.
We rely on charitable funds and academic grants to support the costs of SWDBB staff, researchers, tissue storage, consumables and transport. Donations to support the SWDBB are greatly appreciated and help to reduce the support needed from the charities that help to fund us. Donations can be made through JustGiving or through the University of Bristol website.
Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
The Problem: There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today and by 2025 the number is expected to rise to over one million.
The South West Dementia Brain Bank (SWDBB) is part of the University of Bristol. It is housed within the Learning & Research building at Southmead Hospital and opened for the receipt of brain donations for dementia research in 1984. It is a resource for the banking of brain tissue kindly donated by people to aid research that concerns the causes or other aspects of dementia and that has the potential to be of benefit to people with dementia and their families. The availability of this donated tissue is essential for dementia research both in the UK and worldwide.
The Aim: The aim of the SWDBB is to provide researchers with access to high quality brain tissue to further our understanding of dementia. The tissue is obtained with full consent from potential donors or their families.
Almost all major advances in our understanding and treatment of dementia have been based on research on human brain tissue. Yet despite much progress, the precise causes of nerve cell damage in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias remain poorly understood. Existing treatments reduce symptoms for a period of time but do not stop progression of the disease. We have an urgent need for more research into dementia, and comparison of brain tissue from people who have had dementia with that from people who have not is a crucial way for us to find out why different types of dementia occur, how they differ and how they progress. Our work allows the SWDBB to provide suitable samples of brain tissue to as many people as possible who are in a position to contribute to dementia research.
What is not well known is that the diagnosis of dementia cannot usually be confirmed without examination of the brain after death. It is common for this examination to show that the actual illness responsible for the dementia was different from that diagnosed during life. Establishing an accurate diagnosis is critical to progress in research and treatment. Finding out the final, confirmed diagnosis is also often important to the relatives of the donor, helping families to obtain closure after the death of a loved one. Establishing an accurate diagnosis is therefore not only the foundation of all of the research activities of the Brain Bank but also a key part of the service we provide to the donor’s family and to healthcare professionals who were involved in the donor's care.