The UNTHSC Brain Bank has two primary focus areas that are distinct, yet related and interactive. They both focus on illnesses involving the brain, and both seek to obtain tissue from cognitively intact individuals along with individuals who have suffered from cognitive decline.
The goal of the Institute for Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience program is to distinguish neurobiologic features of aging in cognitively intact individuals from neurobiologic features associated with dementia.
The goal of the HIV program is to understand why prevalence of neurocognitive impairments within the HIV community has not decreased even though effective HIV therapy has increased the life span of affected individuals. The Department of Cell Biology and Immunology coordinates activities for this arm of the Brain Bank.
A feature common to both programs is that individuals are enrolled at the youngest age possible so that clinical data may be correlated with aging with and without dementing processes.
The UNTHSC Brain Bank began in 2007, when Dr. Anuja Ghorpade brought her experience in brain banking and HIV research program to UNTHSC. Her research into to the role of astroglia in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders depends in great part on making comparisons between tissue from non-infected, non-impaired and chronically infected individuals. Dr. Ghorpade laid the foundation for the UNTHSC Brain Bank as it exists today.
In parallel, as Director of the Institute for Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research,and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Dr. James Simpkins was seeking to develop a Brain Bank to provide human brain specimens of cognitively intact and aged individuals to scientists. To this end, he recruited Dr. Rosalie Uht, who arrived in 2008. As a board certified neuropathologist she has the expertise to identify and sample specific areas of the brain. Critical to the mission of both Brain Bank programs, she has the ability to distinguish tissue without specific pathologic abnormalities, normal variants, and artifacts of handling, from tissue with pathologic features.
At present, both arms of the UNTHSC Brain Bank continue to reach out to the community and are actively enrolling cognitively intact and cognitively impaired individuals. For details, please see FAQ’s.