Brain banks: Benefits, limitations and cautions concerning the use of post-mortem brain tissue for molecular studies

Isidre Ferrer, Anna Martinez, Susana Boluda, Piero Parchi, Marta Barrachina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Brain banks are facilities providing an interface between generous donation of nervous tissues and research laboratories devoted to increase our understanding of the diseases of the nervous system, discover new diagnostic targets, and develop new strategies. Considering this crucial role, it is important to learn about the suitabilities, limitations and proper handling of individual brain samples for particular studies. Several factors may interfere with preservation of DNA, RNA, proteins and lipids, and, therefore, special care must be taken first to detect sub-optimally preserved tissues and second to provide adequate material for each specific purpose. Basic aspects related with DNA, RNA and protein preservation include agonal state, post-mortem delay, temperature of storage and procedures of tissue preservation. Examination of DNA and RNA preservation is best done by using bioanalyzer technologies instead of less sensitive methods such as agarose gels. Adequate RNA preservation is mandatory in RNA microarray studies and adequate controls are necessary for proper PCR validation. Like for RNA, the preservation of proteins is not homogeneous since some molecules are more vulnerable than others. This aspect is crucial in the study of proteins including expression levels and possible post-translational modifications. Similarly, the reliability of functional and enzymatic studies in human post-mortem brain largely depends on protein preservation. Much less is known about other aspects, such as the effects of putative deleterious factors on epigenetic events such as methylation of CpGs in gene promoters, nucleosome preservation, histone modifications, and conservation of microRNA species. Most brains are appropriate for morphological approaches but not all brains are useful for certain biochemical and molecular studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-194
Number of pages14
JournalCell and Tissue Banking
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • Brain bank
  • DNA
  • Epigenetics
  • Oxidation
  • Post-mortem delay
  • Protein
  • RNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation
  • Immunology


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