Human beings have all the time been fascinated by the mind.
Though scientific knowledge about this 1.3 kg of fragile substance embedded in our skull has lengthy been incomplete, dazzling technical breakthroughs made lately at the moment are ushering in a Golden Age of molecular neuroscience.
These breakthroughs have been made attainable partly due to brain banks, which protect human brains in the absolute best situations for scientific research. Right here in Montréal, now we have one of many world’s largest such banks, the Douglas-Bell Canada Mind Financial institution (DBCBB), founded in 1980 at the Douglas Hospital.
The DBCBB, which receives a number of brains every month, has collected over 3,600 specimens so far. Yearly, its staff processes dozens of tissue requests from scientists in Québec, Canada and overseas, making ready some 2,000 samples for analysis.
Over the previous 40 years, these efforts have led to a substantial variety of discoveries about totally different neurological and psychiatric ailments.
As a full professor within the division of psychiatry at McGill College, researcher on the Douglas Analysis Heart and director of the DBCBB since 2007, I work in shut collaboration with Dr. Gustavo Turecki, co-director of the DBCBB and answerable for the element dedicated to psychiatric sicknesses and suicide.
A quick historical past of analysis on the human mind
Scientists solely started to establish the microscopic components that make up the human brain within the second half of the nineteenth century.
That was when brains have been preserved for the primary time in formalin, an answer that preserves organic tissue in order that it may be dealt with extra simply and saved over a long term.
On the similar time, precision devices and protocols have been being developed that made it attainable to look at the microscopic traits of nervous tissue.
Till the center of the twentieth century, researchers have been primarily happy with preserving the brains of sufferers, taken throughout autopsies, so they may use them to establish attainable macroscopic or microscopic modifications linked to both neurological or psychiatric signs.
That is the truth is what the German neurologist Alois Alzheimer did when he analyzed the mind of one in all his sufferers affected by dementia. In 1906, he described, for the primary time, the microscopic lesions which characterize the illness that now bears his identify.
Till the tip of the Seventies, quite a few collections of mind specimens preserved in formalin have been in-built hospital environments, a bit like the cupboards of curiosities of olden days.
In direction of the tip of the twentieth century, new experimental approaches have been developed permitting the high-resolution evaluation of cells and molecules inside organic tissues.
It then turned vital to gather and protect human brains, obtained with the consent of the person or his or her household, in situations suitable with fashionable scientific methods.
Researchers started freezing one of many cerebral hemispheres with a view to measure its numerous molecular elements. The opposite hemisphere was preserved in formalin for use for macroscopic and microscopic anatomical research.
This was the context wherein the Douglas-Bell Canada Mind Financial institution was created.
New experimental approaches are yielding outcomes
Main researchers from many universities all over the world now use DBCBB samples to advance their analysis. This, in fact, contains various groups in Québec.
For instance, together with his staff from the Douglas Analysis Heart, which is affiliated with McGill College, Judes Poirier found that the APOE4 gene is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Extra just lately, the staff of Gilbert Bernier, professor within the division of neuroscience at Université de Montréal, found that the lesions attribute of this illness are related to abnormal expression of the BMI1 gene.
With regard to psychiatric sicknesses, and extra particularly melancholy, main progress has been made just lately by the McGill Group for Suicide Studies.
Utilizing cutting-edge strategies to isolate and analyze human mind cells, Turecki’s staff has succeeded in exactly figuring out the cell sorts whose operate is affected in males who have suffered from major depression, after which discovering that the cell sorts concerned on this sickness differ between men and women.
These experimental approaches generate big information units that may be examined in subsequent research. That is the case, for instance, of labor carried out in my laboratory, which recognized indicators of persistent modifications in neuroplasticity inside the prefrontal cortex of individuals with a historical past of child abuse. In actual fact, the research talked about above enabled us to find at the very least one of many cell sorts concerned on this phenomenon.
In brief, the experimental strategies now we have immediately enable us to interrupt the mind down into its elementary elements with a view to perceive its features and dysfunctions.
Establish, forestall, display and deal with
Because of the laborious work and dedication of the complete DBCBB staff, in addition to the unfailing help of all its companions, patrons (typically nameless) and funding our bodies—notably the FRQS analysis fund and Québec’s suicide analysis community, the Réseau québécois sur le suicide, les troubles de l’humeur et les troubles associés—this invaluable useful resource has not solely managed to outlive, however to develop and develop into one of many largest mind banks on the earth.
There may be each purpose to imagine that, within the years to return, the DBCBB will play an vital position within the more and more exact identification of the organic causes of mind ailments, and, in consequence, will contribute to the identification of recent targets for higher approaches to prevention, screening and therapy.
The Douglas-Bell Canada Mind Financial institution: A goldmine for analysis on mind ailments (2023, December 26)
retrieved 26 December 2023
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