The way that scientists preserve the brain for research has not changed since the 1950s. Better brain preservation technology is very valuable to medicine, it gives scientists a better understanding of brain anatomy and brain diseases in ways that were never thought possible.
Brain donation authorizes the preservation of the "connectome," which is the term for the map of all neural connections in a brain. The key to brain donation is rapid preservation in under 30 minutes after death. Because of the time sensitive nature of brain donation, donors must pre-register before death.
When a donor approaches their final days of life, the hospice provider and next of kin must contact our team to standby 24 to 72 hours before death. Donors must be altruistic individuals with a passion for advancing the progress of medical science and education. Families will receive a copy of the brain scans upon completion of the brain preservation.
The ongoing research being conducted in brain science has allowed for the development of advanced brain preservation techniques. An award-winning method called aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation (ASC) has been scientifically demonstrated to preserve the brain’s micro-structure over indefinite time scales.
This approach uses glutaraldehyde to rapidly stabilize the brain’s synaptic structure. The necessary cryoprotectants are delivered via perfusion, enabling preservation of brains of any size. Our breakthrough research has unlocked the ability to view detailed brain structures across whole brain volumes, which has never before been possible.
This interactive tool provides a 3D illustration of a closely bundled set of neurons. Each neuron has been colored differently to distinguish them. Researchers have undertaken the construction of “connectomes," which are brain maps of all the synaptic connections within the brain. This is no small task, since the brain is thought to have over 100 billion neurons!
This image was produced by Quanta Magazine, based on research being done by Jeff Lichtman at Harvard University. It is the hope of many brain researchers that in the future, brain mapping will allow scientists to compare the brains of many individuals, allowing for the advancement of brain science and treatments.
Scientists need both healthy brains and unhealthy brains to understand how disease processes may impact brain structure and behaviors, and how they can be treated. To advance our knowledge of the human brain, we encourage donors and their families who are passionate about science and want to be a part of the “final frontier” in brain research to register for brain preservation.