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Photo: a researcher looking at brain samples at the MS Society Tissue Bank

£1.5 million for the MS Society Tissue Bank

We’re pleased to announce we've committed £1.5 million to fund exciting new work at the MS Society Tissue Bank.

Our tissue bank allows people to donate their brain and spinal cord tissue for MS research after their death. It's the largest collection of MS brain and spinal cord tissue in Europe, and has sent over 20,000 tissue samples out to researchers around the world.

We fund the tissue bank jointly with Parkinson's UK who are providing a further £1.5 million. As well as supporting the vital ongoing activities of the tissue bank, this investment will fund some ambitious new developments including building a ‘digital brain bank’ complete with virtual reality interface.

Giving scientists the right tools

Professor Richard Nicholas is the newly appointed Scientific Director at the tissue bank. He takes over from Professor Richard Reynolds who has been in the position for over 20 years and personally collected the first brain in 1998. Professor Reynolds will continue to share his significant expertise with the Tissue Bank as its Chief Scientific Advisor.

Professor Nicholas said: “When the tissue bank first opened in 1998 there were practically no treatments for those affected. Things are very different now and it’s a privilege to work with an organisation like the MS Society, which does everything it can to ensure the work of the scientific community reflects the needs of people living with MS.

“They recognise that if we’re going to revolutionise the way MS is treated – and find treatments for everyone – scientists need the right tools”.

Building a digital brain bank

The tissue bank team will use new technologies to produce high definition pictures of the brain tissue donated by people with MS. This digital brain bank will let researchers from around the world access images of brains from people with MS. Sharing tissue samples in this way means each individual brain can be even more valuable.

There will also be a 3D interactive section so that people who are thinking of becoming donors can explore a virtual brain. During these ‘virtual visits’ to the tissue bank, visitors can see a brain up close and learn more about what the tissue bank does.

Professor Nicholas continues: “This investment will ensure all researchers have access to high quality brain and spinal cord tissue from people with MS, and marks an important development in the UK research landscape. We’re excited to see where it takes us.”

Finding treatments to slow or stop MS

Our Head of Biomedical Research, Dr Sorrel Bickley, said: “The MS Society Tissue Bank has been vital in improving our understanding of MS and finding treatments for some people with the condition. But our top priority now is finding treatments to slow or stop MS for everyone.

“We can see a future where nobody needs to worry about MS getting worse, but for that to happen we urgently need to find treatments that repair myelin – the protective layer that surrounds our nerves, which is damaged in MS, and protect the nerves from damage. This funding will allow researchers to operate as effectively as possible, and ultimately help us stop MS faster.”