Mayo Clinic Brain Bank

Neuroscientists at Mayo Clinic's campus in Florida are leaders in the discovery of new genes, biomarkers and therapeutic targets for brain diseases. Thanks to exceptional resources, including a brain bank for neurodegenerative disorders housed within Dr. Dickson's Neuropathology and Microscopy Laboratory, Mayo investigators continue to shed new light on the underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia and stroke.

Dennis W. Dickson, M.D., the Robert E. Jacoby Professor of Alzheimer's Research, is a member of the Department of Neuroscience. He is past president of the American Association of Neuropathologists and a Potamkin Prize winner. He directs the brain bank with the assistance of a dedicated staff of brain bank coordinators, neurohistology technical staff and professional support staff. The brain bank, which continues to grow, currently houses more than 9,000 specimens, which are shared with qualified investigators at Mayo Clinic and other academic medical centers in the United States and abroad.

Well-characterized brain samples from both affected individuals, as well as normal controls, have been shared with investigators working to improve understanding of the neuropathology, genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology of neurodegenerative disorders. As part of this brain-banking function, fixed and frozen brain samples are obtained at autopsy. The tissue samples undergo systematic and standardized diagnostic evaluation, with a formal written report shared with clinicians and with the next of kin. The fixed and frozen tissue samples from the brains are used for various types of research studies, including neurohistology, immunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, electron microscopy and image analysis, as well as biochemical and molecular biological studies.

The brain bank currently houses more than 3,000 cases of Alzheimer's disease, 2,000 cases with Lewy body disease, nearly 2,000 cases of tauopathies (progressive supranuclear palsy and corticobasal degeneration), and a growing collection of frontotemporal dementia and ALS cases. While less common, tissues from patients with genetic causes of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia and ALS also are shared with research investigators.

Another important function of the Neuropathology and Microscopy Laboratory is to support histologic studies of mouse models of neurological diseases developed by research scientists at Mayo Clinic. The laboratory also comprises an electron microscopy facility to provide support for research studies analyzing the ultrastructure of cells in human tissues and preclinical models.