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South Australian (SA) Brain Bank

neurological disease, biobanking, neuro-oncology...

The late Robyn Flook with Flinders neurosurgeon
Dr Santosh Poonnoose, checking neurological
samples banked for research

The need for a 'Brain Bank'

Neurological and psychiatric diseases are a major health and socio-economic problem worldwide. Research into many of these disorders is compromised by the lack of suitable animal or in vitro models and thus still relies heavily on studying post-mortem human central nervous system (CNS) tissues.

The SA Brain Bank, in collaboration with the Australian Brain Bank Network, collects, processes and distributes post-mortem human brain tissue and related samples for research into neurological and psychiatric conditions. Researchers are provided with clinically and neuropathologically well-characterised human brain tissue on which they can conduct analyses related to their fields of expertise. These studies, using current and evolving technologies, have great potential to unlock our understanding of how these diseases occur and may lead to improvements in diagnosis, treatment or the development of preventative strategies.

With an increased life expectancy and an ageing population, it has never been more important to increase our research effort into studying diseases of the central nervous system, so that we may understand the cause, develop effective treatments and reduce the incidence of such diseases. The availability of banked tissue (and linked de-identified clinical information) to enable this research is vital.

SA Brain Bank

The South Australian Brain Bank was established in 1986 by Prof William Blessing, Senior Consultant Neurologist (FMC), NH&MRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Professor of Medicine and Human Physiology (Flinders University); and Prof Peter Blumbergs, AO, Senior Consultant Neuropathologist, IMVS/SA Pathology, RAH, FMC, QEH and Adelaide University, to support research into neurological diseases. In 1993, South Australia joined with the other states to form the Australian Brain Bank Network.
Initially established as a ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ Brain Bank, it was soon evident that there was a need for a repository for research into other neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders, and with funding from the NH&MRC (1993-2014), the SA Brain Bank was able to expand its collection to accept other disease categories.

The SA Brain Bank has successfully established:
> A Tissue Donor Program for people to consent to donate their neurological tissues to the Brain Bank after their death.
> Links with internationally recognized research groups utilizing human brain and spinal cord tissues.
> A resource available to facilitate higher degree studies.
> Links with clinical specialists, pathologists, allied health professionals, patient support groups and educational forums to facilitate greater understanding of disease processes.
> An invaluable resource of tissues representing more than 20 neurological and psychiatric disorders, including extremely rare pathologies.

Research into a wide range of diseases of the nervous system, including Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, Multiple System Atrophy, Stroke, Motor Neuron Disease, Lewy Body Disease, Frontotemporal and Familial Dementias has been enabled by this resource. Since its inception, the growth in the number of brain donations, research projects supported and publications generated has exceeded expectations.

With the support of the FMC Foundation and the Ride Like Crazy Group of SAPOL, we have been able to expand our resource to include tissue collected from surgery following brain tumour resection, for vital research into brain cancer, a leading cause of cancer death for young people and one of the least studied cancers in Australia. Thanks to this funding, we will be able to expand our work to provide donated tissue to help medical scientists understand brain tumour types, their development and facilitate the design of more robust and specific drug treatments.

Dr Brian Ng, Prof Derek Abbott, Dr Gretel Png, Dept Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Adelaide University: In vitro investigation of senile plaques using terahertz spectroscopy.
Prof Glenda Halliday, Dept of Medical Sciences, Neuroscience Research Australia, Sydney NSW: Molecular genetics and neuropathology in dementia/ALS families.
Dr Tim Chataway, Dept of Human Physiology, Flinders University: Analysis of neural inclusions in ageing and diseased brains.
Dr Dean Pountney, Dept of Medical Science, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Qld: Role of Sumo-1 conjugates in alpha-synucleinopathies.
Prof Rainer Haberberger, Dept Anatomy & Histology, Flinders University: Biolipids as modulators of synaptic transmission in the human dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and spinal cord.
Assoc Prof Rob Casson, Ophthalmology Network, Royal Adelaide Hospital: The pathology of the optic nerve in human glaucoma: a case controlled study examining the pathology of the optic nerve in human glaucoma.

Selected Publications

*It is a requirement of obtaining tissues from the SA Brain Bank that it is acknowledged in all oral or written presentations or publications that arise from the use of brain bank material, even where the absence of agreed collaborations means that members of the SA Brain Bank are not authors on any publication. The following publications have arisen as the result of activities supported by the SA Brain Bank.


Yan XX, Ma C, Bao AM, Wang XM, Gai WP (2015) Brain banking as a cornerstone of neuroscience in China. The Lancet. Neurology, 14(2):136


Chen T, Gai WP, Abbott CA (2014) Dipeptidyl peptidase 10 (DPP10(789)): a voltage gated potassium channel associated protein is abnormally expressed in Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Biomedical Research International, 2014:209398


Corrigan F, Thornton E, Roisman LC, Leonard AV, Vink R, Blumbergs PC, van den Heuvel C, Cappai R (2014) The neuroprotective activity of the amyloid precursor protein against traumatic brain injury is mediated via the heparin binding site in residues 96-110. Journal of Neurochemistry, 128(1):196-204


Greene ID, Mastaglia F, Meloni BP, West KA, Chieng J, Mitchell CJ, Gai WP, Boulos S (2014) Evidence that the LRRK2 ROC domain Parkinson's disease-associated mutants A1442P and R1441C exhibit increased intracellular degradation. Journal of Neuroscience Research, 92(4):506-16


Leonard AV, Manavis J, Blumbergs PC, Vink R (2014) Changes in substance P and NK1 receptor immunohistochemistry following human spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord, 52(1):17-23


Rcom-H cheo-Gauthier A, Goodwin J, Pountney DL (2014) Interactions between calcium and alpha-synuclein in neurodegeneration. Biomolecules, 4:795-811


Yan XX, Ma C, Gai WP, Cai H, Luo XG (2014) Can BACE1 inhibition mitigate early axonal pathology in neurological diseases? Journal of Alzheimers Disease, 38(4):705-18


Wong MB, Goodwin J, Norazit A, Meedeniya AC, Richter-Landsberg C, Gai WP, Pountney DL (2013) SUMO-1 is associated with a subset of lysosomes in glial protein aggregate diseases. Neurotoxicity Research, 23(1):1-21


Kragh CL, Fillon G, Gysbers A, Hansen HD, Neumann M, Richter-Landsberg C, Haass C, Zalc B, Lubetzki C, Gai WP, Halliday GM, Kahle PJ, Jensen PH (2013) FAS-dependent cell death in α-synuclein transgenic oligodendrocyte models of multiple system atrophy. PLoS One, 8(1):e55243


Guerreiro PS, Huang Y, Gysbers A, Cheng D, Gai WP, Outeiro TF, Halliday GM (2013) LRRK2 interactions with α-synuclein in Parkinson's disease brains and in cell models. Journal of Molecular Medicine (Berlin), 91(4):513-22



Managers / Coordinators

  • Dr Rebecca Ormsby, Coordinator SA Brain Bank and Neurological Tumour Bank

Support Staff

  • Malgosia Krupa, Research Assistant

Executive Directors

  • Assoc Prof Mark Slee, Clinical Academic Neurologist, Department of Neurology, Discipline of Human Physiology, and Centre for Neuroscience

  • Prof Peter Blumbergs, Professor of Neuropathology, Centre for Neurological Diseases, University of Adelaide and SA Pathology

Scientific Advisory Committee

  • Prof Peter Blumbergs

  • Dr Barbara Koszyca

  • Mr Jim Manavis

  • Mr Stephen Nygaard

  • Assoc Prof Mark Slee

  • Assoc Prof James Temlett

  • Dr Robert Wilcox


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