On average, the residents of Sun City, Arizona, occupy their domiciles for a dozen years. When they depart—almost always by dying—they often leave their brains behind. The stages of physical and mental decline take them from their dream house to a hospital off Del Webb Boulevard, then to a nursing home, and finally back to the medical complex, where researchers harvest their most important organ. Hoping to do good for science, they have enrolled in the Brain and Body Donation Program of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute—widely considered the world’s preeminent brain bank.
A large base of well-
documented donors in close proximity sets the Sun City program apart from other repositories, which often have scant information about patients who may be scattered and diverse. Here, healthy, active seniors who eventually die of, say, heart disease, can be compared with others who develop neurodegenerative disorders. Because the two sets of subjects have similar backgrounds, lifestyles, and ethnic traits, changes relating to a brain disease should be easier to detect.
The institute is also famed for its crack autopsy team, which responds so quickly that no more than three hours elapse from the time a donor expires to the time that the brain is removed and preserved. “We’re not the biggest brain bank in the world, but we have the highest-quality tissue,” says pathologist Thomas Beach, the program director, who notes that donors must live within a 50-mile radius of the morgue.
After withdrawing some blood and cerebrospinal fluid for analysis, a team of rotating techs on duty 24 hours a day remove the top of the skull and take out the brain. The next step relies on a device that resembles a bread slicer, which is used to cut the brain into sections one centimeter thick. The slices from the left side are fixed in formaldehyde and those from the right are frozen between sheets of dry ice. Part of the tissue from the formaldehyde sections is stained, pressed into slides, and put under the microscope to verify the brain’s condition, healthy or diseased. The rest, light brown and convoluted, may be held in Tupperware containers at the research institute indefinitely. A recent visit to the storeroom turned up a container dated 1994.
These fresh brain sections, kept in carefully monitored freezers, are hot properties for advanced neuroscience research. Because the brain’s proteins, DNA, and other molecules are still intact, pharmaceutical companies are willing to pay high prices for the tissue.
One of the most prized specimens is a sample of the entorhinal cortex, regarded as the X on the brain’s treasure map by Alzheimer’s researchers because the disease is thought to originate there; the nonprofit brain bank charges up to $1,000 for half a gram.
Boston Bomber Carjacking Unravels 2014 03 11 An exclusive WhoWhatWhy investigation has found serious factual inconsistencies in accounts provided by the only witness to the alleged confession of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
Why does this matter? Because this witness is the sole source for the entire publicly accepted narrative of who was behind the bombing and its aftermath—and why these events occurred.
In case we’ve forgotten how convoluted ...
3 Years On: Events, Questions Mark Fukushima Anniversary 2014 03 11 Three years on and the extent of the environmental, human and economic repercussions of the Fukushima incident continue to reveal themselves. Fukushima “fallout” is both literal in terms of radioactive materials, and figurative on a global scale. The politics and opinions around the nuclear issue are far from settled.
In Japan anti-nuclear sentiment runs high, with protesters recently marking the anniversary ...
Real Ukraine Issue: Rogue Reactors and Putin’s ’No-Bama’ Zone in Crimea 2014 03 11
Another week into the ‘Crimea Crisis’ and the kamakizi war rhetoric is still spewing out of Washington, London and their multinational corporate media arms.
You’d think it was Red Dawn all over again, only it’s not.
It all sound very impressive and pumped up in the news rooms, but is there any real substance in it – other than keeping oil and ...
Spraying Chemtrails to ’Reduce Pollution’ 2014 03 11
The noxious smog choking Chinese cities is globally notorious, with photos showing the grey darkness that swallows citizens as they try to go about their lives. The thick clouds sometimes turn day to night, and wreak havoc for those with respiratory ailments. Reports of how toxic and damaging the smog is to humans and the environment completes the nightmare scenario, ...