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Century-old brains may hold future of treatment for mentally ill, Indiana University pathologist says
Date:12/6/2011

INDIANAPOLIS -- Visitors to the Indiana Medical History Museum in Indianapolis may find the 19th-century brains on display a strange reminder of the building's past as an insane asylum, but a recent breakthrough using these samples by a pathologist from the Indiana University School of Medicine could spell the future of detecting mental illness.

George Sandusky, D.V.M., Ph.D., senior research professor of pathology and laboratory science at the IU School of Medicine, is working to extract DNA from brains preserved more than 100 years ago and displayed in jars at the museum. The goal is to improve diagnosis and treatment for psychological illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder using a simple blood test.

"This work could make an impact on patient care a huge impact," said Dr. Sandusky. "It's going to help diagnose patients with mental disorders quicker and faster."

Using brain donors from traditional sources to advance this goal only brings in about 12 new subjects per year. The museum collection, which includes over 400 specimens, could speed the arrival of new diagnoses and treatments for the mentally ill by decades, he added.

The brain samples under investigation come from turn-of-the-century patients who suffered from mental disorders at Central State Hospital, an asylum established in the mid-1800s to house the state's mentally ill. The museum is located in the former pathology building at Central State on the near west side of Indianapolis.

John Pless, M.D., Culbertson Professor Emeritus of Pathology at the IU School of Medicine and former chair of the museum board of trustees, first proposed the brains might be able to help advance modern medicine. Dr. Sandusky, who also serves on the museum board, was originally trying to simply determine whether the aging specimens contained viable genetic information. All tissues used in this research received ethical and legal
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Contact: Kevin Fryling
kfryling@iu.edu
317-274-7722
Indiana University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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Century-old brains may hold future of treatment for mentally ill, Indiana University pathologist says
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