South West Dementia Brain Bank

Our mission

To support research into the causes of dementia or any other aspects of dementia research provided this has the potential to be of value to knowledge of the diseases and/or to sufferers and their families.

How the SWDBB resource is managed

The South West Dementia Brain Bank (SWDBB) laboratory is housed within the Learning & Research Building at Southmead Hospital. The SWDBB, since it was founded has been supported by a number of sources including BRACE, Alzheimer’s Research UK, the North Bristol NHS Trust Research and Innovation Department and DeNDRoN and is currently supported Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society through Brains for Dementia Research.

The SWDBB is under the co-directorship of Professor Seth Love and Professor Patrick Kehoe, and is licensed to operate as research tissue bank by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA). SWDBB operates under ethical approval from North Somerset and South Bristol Research Ethics Committee.

The day-to-day running and co-ordination of the SWDBB is overseen by a Local Management Group comprising the SWDBB directors; senior researchers of the Dementia Research Group; an independent member and the SWDBB Manager. This Committee reports to the SWDBB Research Governance Committee, which has a more strategic and research governance oversight for the SWDBB. The SWDBB also reports and contributes to the University of Bristol Human Tissue Working Group.

How the SWDBB is organised

The SWDBB opened for the receipt brain donations for dementia research in the mid 1980s. SWDBB still accepts donations but in 2010 became one of the recruitment centres and member brain banks in the ABBUK-funded Brains for Dementia Research (BDR) Network project. Going forward, all future and potential donors will be encouraged to register for donation to SWDBB under the auspices of the BDR project, which involves prospective donors undertaking a number of assessments from the time they register until the time of their donation. This process will provide a very rich amount of information on which to base future diagnosis but also for information that will be of great importance in informing future research studies.

What does the bank contain?

The SWDBB holds brain tissue from almost 1000 subjects who donated their brains in strict accordance with ethically approved procedures. Each donation has been examined by a neuropathologist and given a final diagnosis according to international guidelines.

Frozen and formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue and DNA are available from most of the brains, as is a considerable amount of other information that has been systematically collected in relation to Aβ and tau pathology, cerebral amyloid angiopathy severity, RNA integrity and pH. For a subset of SWDBB donated brains we also have samples of post-mortem ventricular cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

For much of the archive, we still retain a substantial volume of original medical notes although in the future, all brains collected using the BDR protocol will have more detailed, prospectively collected, cognitive assessment data.



The Dementia Research Group has a strong tradition of collaboration as demonstrated by publications of its joint leads Professor Patrick Kehoe and Professor Seth Love. The group and continues to welcome new collaborations.

SWDBB tissue can be made available, subject to appropriate application and subsequent approval by the SWDBB Local Management Committee. Tissue can be made available to applicants from the SWDBB archive or those collected under the new BDR protocols. Potential applicants are advised to make informal enquires to the SWDBB manager to discuss the likely availability of tissue that might be requested and in turn the most appropriate way to apply.


Information for prospective donors

Informal queries about making a donation or to request further information on what is involved, please contact the SWDBB manager during office hours Monday-Friday.

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