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The MS Tissue Bank: a no brainer

Sarah Foxton

We’ve been funding the MS Tissue Bank since it was set up in 1998. We caught up with research nurse, Ville Pitkaaho, to find out what it’s all about and what really goes on behind closed doors.

Hi Ville! So what is the MS Tissue Bank?

It’s an essential facility that provides a national collection of MS tissue for research. We’re one of the world’s biggest brain banks, providing tissue around the globe to help researchers find a cure for MS. I know I’m biased but it’s a fantastic resource!

Why do we need MS tissue?

Currently we don’t know exactly what causes MS or how the brain is damaged, and repaired, in people with MS. Animals don’t get MS so understanding what’s going on in human tissue is really important. Exciting advances in MS research are happening around the world, but if we don’t know how these findings translate into changes happening in the brain it’s hard to move forward.

What do you do at the MS Tissue Bank?

I liaise with potential donors, their families and health care professionals, such as MS nurses.

I’m also responsible for recruitment and we’re always looking for new donors. You’ll often find me at conferences like MS Life promoting our activities - come and say hello if you see our stand! I’m involved in ensuring smooth retrieval of tissue.

After tissue arrives I dissect and preserve for storing - this just makes it easier to handle and provide to researchers down the line. With a 48-hour turn around this can make for some busy days! Another part of my job is providing clinical summaries for tissue so researchers know what kind of MS the individual had, the symptoms they experienced as well as other factors that could explain changes in the tissue.

So what kind of research is the MS Tissue Bank involved in?

Our aim is to enable MS research by providing tissue samples for researchers. The projects we provide samples for fit into four categories; improving diagnosis, identifying causes, developing strategies to stop further damage, and discovering ways to promote the tissue repair.

All tissue applications are reviewed by our expert panel and people affected by MS to ensure ethical and respectful use.

How can people sign up?

You can sign up online - we’ve recently got a new website which is really easy to use - or you can give us a call on 020 7594 9734.

> Sign up on the Tissue Bank website