Abbiategrasso Brain Bank Protocol for Collecting, Processing and Characterizing Aging Brains

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

In a constantly aging population, the prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders is expected to rise. Understanding disease mechanisms is the key to find preventive and curative measures. The most effective way to achieve this is through direct examination of diseased and healthy brain tissue. The authors present a protocol to obtain, process, characterize and store good quality brain tissue donated by individuals registered in an antemortem brain donation program. The donation program includes a face-to-face empathic approach to people, a collection of complementary clinical, biological, social and lifestyle information and serial multi-dimensional assessments over time to track individual trajectories of normal aging and cognitive decline. Since many neurological diseases are asymmetrical, our brain bank offers a unique protocol for slicing fresh specimens. Brain sections of both hemispheres are alternately frozen (at -80 °C) or fixed in formalin; a fixed slice on one hemisphere corresponds to a frozen one on the other hemisphere. With this approach, a complete histological characterization of all frozen material can be obtained, and omics studies can be performed on histologically well-defined tissues from both hemispheres thus offering a more complete assessment of neurodegenerative disease mechanisms. Correct and definite diagnosis of these diseases can only be achieved by combining the clinical syndrome with the neuropathological evaluation, which often adds important etiological clues necessary to interpret the pathogenesis. This method can be time consuming, expensive and limited as it only covers a limited geographical area. Regardless of its limitations, the high degree of characterization it provides can be rewarding. Our ultimate goal is to establish the first Italian Brain Bank, all the while emphasizing the importance of neuropathologically verified epidemiological studies.