A new collaboration is in the way for Singapore to have its first brain bank here. The brain bank will be launched by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU Singapore) Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine), in partnership with National Healthcare Group (NHG) and National Neuroscience Institute (NNI).
Brain Bank Singapore will serve as a repository for brain and spinal cord tissues of deceased donors. It is to be hosted at LKCMedicine.
LKCMedicine’s Professor Richard Reynolds, who is also Professor of Cellular Neurobiology at Imperial College London, which jointly established LKCMedicine with NTU, will be leading Brain Bank Singapore.
He has over 20 years of experience being the founding Director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank, an international brain tissue bank based in London, UK.
Together with his colleagues, Dr Adeline Ng, a consultant neurologist from NNI, and Dr Jimmy Lee, a senior consultant and psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), Professor Reynolds pioneered the establishment of this institution.
Establishing a national brain bank resource in Singapore is a shared vision of researchers and clinicians within the neuroscience community. He said that research has allowed them to discover that the genetic background is crucial to establishing the onset and pattern of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders.
He added that is critical for neuroscientists in Singapore to have access to the brains of patients of the required genetic and ethnic background for research. It will pave the way to more research opportunities and grow knowledge of brain diseases within Singapore.
Tissue donations provided by healthy donors with neurodegenerative conditions and neurological disorders will be kept and used in research work following the ethical guidelines.
This ethical form of research is categorised under Neuroscience and Mental Health, a key research pillar of LKCMedicine. It will centre on achieving a better and deeper understanding of the causes and symptoms of brain-related illnesses so that stronger treatments and solutions can be produced.
Professor James Best, Dean of NTU LKCMedicine said that his organisation is already working with its partners for carrying out thorough research on dementia.
They are also working to collect baseline population health data from a large sample of the population.
“Brain Bank Singapore is an elevated platform on which neuroscientists and clinician-scientists can work together to find solutions that will address debilitating brain diseases in Singapore,” he said.
IMH and Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) play important roles in this partnership. With their valued experience in treating patients with neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric conditions, their focus has shifted to discovering and providing new and improved treatment of neurological conditions within the country.
Professor Philip Choo, Group CEO of NHG said that the push for research of medical conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and dementia is coming at an appropriate time as Singapore’s ageing population is growing.
Statistics show that by 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be 65 years old and face an increased life expectancy of 84.8 years. With this, age-related neurological disorders are expected to rise.
He said that it is a goal to create a strong bank that will be house ethical brain tissue research efforts. This will allow growth for learning and better understanding of the disease mechanisms of neurological disorders.
Brain Bank Singapore has started its brain donor recruitment, following approval from SingHealth and NTU Institutional Review Boards. The bank aims to have 1,000 brain donors over the next four years.