NIH may destroy human brain collection

March 24, 2005 at 4:06 PM

WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials may discard a rare collection that includes hundreds of brain samples from patients who had a disorder similar to mad cow disease.

Several scientists said the collection, which is held by the NIH's National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md. -- and includes brains and other tissue samples from people afflicted with the brain-wasting illness Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease -- is irreplaceable and could even provide insight into treatments for the fatal disorder.

Bruce Johnson, a former NIH scientist who worked extensively with the collection before he retired in 2003, told UPI he was told "in two years they (NIH officials) are going to destroy it, if nobody wants it."

Eugene Major, acting director of the basic neuroscience program at the NIH, said no specific timeframe had been established and the agency is actively trying to find researchers who want the collection.

The Memorial Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases Inc., a non-profit organization consisting of more than 40 university and institute researchers, applied for the collection last year, but has only been told that its fate had not yet been determined, executive director Harry Peery told UPI.

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