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Why brain banking should be regarded as a special type of biobanking: ethical, practical, and data-management challenges

Authors Nussbeck S, Wemheuer W, Beier K

Received 18 December 2014

Accepted for publication 6 March 2015

Published 12 May 2015 Volume 2015:3(1) Pages 3—14


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr Martin H. Bluth

Sara Y Nussbeck,1,2,* Wiebke M Wemheuer,3,4,* Katharina Beier,5

1Department of Medical Informatics, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany; 2UMG Biobank, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany; 3Department of Neuropathology, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany; 4Experimental Neurobiology Group, Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg; 5Department of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany 

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Abstract: Biobanking of the brain and other central nervous system materials, ie, brain banking (BB), provides an important research tool for understanding the causes of neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. Particularly with aging societies, there is an increasing need for molecular neuropathological research in this field. While there is an extensive debate on biobanking in general, the specific challenges that the procurement, processing, and storage of postmortem human brain tissue, and especially whole brains, raise are hardly ever considered systematically. This paper analyzes the peculiarities that make BB a distinct type of biobanking by combining the perspectives of neuropathology, medical informatics, and medical ethics. While ethical, practical, and data-management issues are often dealt with separately and the focus of such research is on only specific aspects of BB, this paper aims at an integrated analysis of the whole process. Six crucial steps in the BB workflow are analyzed: a) donor recruitment, b) follow-up during the donor's lifetime, c) postmortem brain donation, d) neuropathological diagnosis, e) research with brain tissue, and f) the provision of brain material to third parties. A comprehensive understanding of the challenges that BB raises is vital for making this practice more effective but also to counteract the current decline in brain-donation rates.

Keywords: brain autopsy, brain donation, neuropathology, neuroscience research, ethical, legal, and social issues, IT infrastructure

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