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Brain donor shortage "hinders search for Parkinson's cure"

A nationwide appeal for people to donate their brains to research and help discover a cure for Parkinson's disease was launched today (20 April 2009) by the Parkinson's Disease Society (PDS).

One in 500 people is affected by the condition and the PDS says the shortage of brain donors is hindering scientists in finding a cure.

Jane Asher, President of the Parkinson's Disease Society, Jeremy Paxman and John Stapleton are among a number of well known supporters who, during Parkinson's Awareness Week 2009 (20–26 April), are pledging to donate their brains for research into the condition.

The PDS is calling on people with and without Parkinson's to sign up to the Parkinson's Brain Donor Register and help scientists progress closer to a cure.

Research using donated brain tissue has already led to major medical breakthroughs in the treatment and understanding of Parkinson's, including the development of drugs such as levodopa, which has revolutionised the way symptoms of the condition are controlled.

However, only 1,000 people across the UK have currently signed up to the Parkinson's Brain Donor Register and pledged to donate their brains. The PDS wants to double this number to 2,000 by the end of 2009.

Research from YouGov suggests that while more than 60% of the public are comfortable donating a heart or kidney, only 7% of adults in Britain are comfortable with the idea of brain donation.

Jane Asher, whose brother-in-law has been diagnosed with Parkinson's, said: 
"We need a greater awareness of the benefits of brain donation so that more people come forward to register with us. It's vital that we secure more potential donors as this will help us move closer to a cure for what can be a debilitating and distressing condition."


Will you be donating your brain to research? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Yes, definitely – it's no use to me when I'm dead. We need a cure for this debilitating condition. Not just a control of symptoms" – Jane, Wales

"This is the first time I learn about donation of brain or brain  issue. I had signed an advanced directive several years ago, have every organ and tissue donated for transplant or research purposes. I wonder if I could help the PDS because I will not die in the UK?" – Amy, Hong Kong