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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 11:04 GMT
Bank is set up for Chinese brains
By Chris Hogg
BBc Hong Kong Correspondent

Chinese donor brains are in short supply
The first brain bank specialising in the study of Chinese brains is to be established.

Researchers in Hong Kong and China hope to persuade Chinese people to donate their grey matter to medical science.

Brain banks in the West do not have an adequate supply of brain tissue from the Chinese to make research feasible.

Hong Kong University says the project will help scientists to gain an understanding of the differences between the brains of different races.

This may have implications for the treatment of disease.

However, many Chinese believe it is important to dispose of the body intact after death - which might make it hard to recruit potential donors for the new facility.

In a statement, Hong Kong University said: "The Western based brain banks do not have an adequate supply of brain tissues originated from Chinese subjects.

"As a result, while brain research is progressing fast in the West, we have a serious deficiency of data on Chinese brains."

Mysterious organ

Research areas:
The brain's involvement in diseases of organs like the liver, kidney or gastro-intestinal tract
The impact on the brain of infections like Sars and hormonal disorders like diabetes
How drugs, including Chinese medicine, work on the brain
The biological basis of human emotion and personality
The brain has been described as the last frontier of the human body. The complexities of human thought and emotion and the diseases that affect the central nervous system are still not fully understood.

In the US and Europe huge amounts of money and effort are spent on research in this area.

Several brain banks have been established to aid this work.

The new facilities in Hong Kong and in the Hunan province in China will be different because they will attempt to create a large collection of Chinese brains.

What is more they plan to record detailed medical histories or psychological profiles of potential donors.

Some will undergo psychiatric or psychometric testing too.

That kind of information is not always available in Western countries.

The brain bank will be located at the Xiangya Medical School in Hunan and the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong.

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