As a person living with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, my options for organ and tissue donation are limited. Earlier this week, I posted regarding organ donation in general and RA. Many of the same rules which apply to RA patients also apply to MS patients. In general, we cannot donate bone marrow or most tissues for transplantation. The ultimate donate-ability of our organs would be determined after our death by the organ transplant team.
The donation of blood, organs, and tissue help to save and improve the lives of countless people each year. However, the donation of brain and spinal cord tissue may hold the key to curing multiple sclerosis one day. Persons living with MS (and their family members) may choose to donate their brain and spinal cord tissues, spinal fluid, other specimens to an MS-specific tissue bank. Planning ahead is vital as brain tissue must be recovered and prepared within four hours after death to be suitable for use in research.
MS Brain and Tissue Banks
Only a few tissue banks in the United States specialize in postmortem human brain and spinal cord tissue in multiple sclerosis research. Three of these tissue banks are funded in part by the National MS Society. The banks were established to procure, process, preserve and distribute multiple sclerosis and non-MS (control) autopsy material to research laboratories involved in MS research. They work together to ensure that high-quality tissue specimens are available for neuroscientists worldwide.
The Human Brain and Spinal Fluid Resource Center at the UCLA-affiliated Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles has been collecting tissue for neurological and psychiatric research for over 50 years. It regularly “provides researchers with the highest quality and quantity of pre- and post-mortem brains, spinal cords, cerebrospinal fluid, serum, blood cells, and urine to use in their investigations of neurological and psychiatric diseases.”
The Rocky Mountain MS Center Tissue Bank in Colorado has gathered tissue specifically for MS research since 1976. Scientific studies conducted with samples from the Rocky Mountain Center “have led to several key discoveries and over 150 publications.” The Center is also interested in receiving donations of “healthy” brains from persons not living with MS.
The MS Tissue Repository at the University of Illinois in Chicago was established in 2008 with a grant from the National MS Society. The Repository is highly interested in obtaining the rare MS case where a patient dies relatively early in the course of the disease when acute inflammatory demyelinating lesions are present. It is believed that these initial, acute lesions may be more likely to provide answers to the cause of MS.
You Must Plan Ahead To Donate Brain Tissue
“While deeply personal, the decision to donate has far-reaching effects as scientists unlock the mysteries of multiple sclerosis. If you would like to donate, arrangements must be made in advance because it is important that tissue is taken within a few hours of death.” - Rocky Mountain MS Center Tissue Bank