A letter from the President of the Brain Preservation Foundation asking for your support
Dear friend of the Brain Preservation Foundation,
This is an exciting time for the Brain Preservation Prize. We have recently received our first chemically-preserved and plastic embedded mouse brain for preliminary evaluation (from our Heidelberg competitor group) and we are set to receive several samples from a cryopreserved rabbit brain in the next few weeks (from our California competitor group). These groups are doing the difficult and expensive work involved in perfecting a technique for preserving the brain’s connectome. Now it is our job at the BPF to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and start doing the also difficult and expensive work of systematically evaluating the quality of these connectome preservation attempts using a combination of 2D and 3D electron microscopy. I am asking you, as a friend of the BPF, if you would consider helping us in this effort by making a contribution to our evaluation fund.
Let me provide some understanding of exactly what we plan on doing with such funding. The BPF has published online the imaging steps required to determine if a sample brain has or has not met the requirements of our Brain Preservation Prize. The following links cover these imaging steps in detail:
As a brief review, the prize requires that the brain be sectioned at 1mm intervals and that each cut face be diamond polished and surveyed with electron images down to 5nm resolution looking for any damage. It also requires that three small brain volumes be removed and sectioned at 50nm thickness and 3D imaged at 5nm resolution revealing whether the 3D synaptic connectivity of the brain is well preserved.
Here is a list of some of the equipment that is absolutely necessary to perform this imaging:
- A field emission scanning electron microscope (with low-energy backscatter detector) capable of obtaining spot sizes of 5nm with currents >1nA.
- A vacuum deposition system for carbon coating
- Custom whole-brain sectioning and polishing equipment
- Diamond knife consumables
- An ultramicrotome
- Automatic ultrathin section tape collection device
- Wet lab facilities and chemicals for re-embedding, staining, mounting, etc.
- Computer hardware and image processing software
It should be clear from the above list that evaluating the Brain Preservation Prize requires access to a highly specialized university research laboratory or an equivalently specialized commercial laboratory. We have three possible laboratories lined up which meet most of these requirements and which are headed by individuals who are enthusiastic about being involved in the prize’s evaluation. This means that we should be able to perform a quality prize evaluation for relatively low cost; however this does not mean that we can perform it for no cost.
Each of these laboratories has paid for its facilities and equipment through dedicated grants and in order for the BPF to legally utilize these facilities and equipment we must pay our fair share of the costs. In addition, any custom equipment and consumables (like diamond knives) must also be paid for by the BPF. Lastly, since none of the laboratories are located in my current state of residence (Virginia) there will be considerable travel costs required to take advantage of my freely volunteered time.
We estimate that BPF will require between $25,000 and $50,000 to perform the multiple rounds of imaging necessary before the mouse-phase of our Brain Preservation Prize is won. Fortunately much of this purchased equipment will be transferable to the large-mammal-phase of our prize as well.
We are asking you, as a friend of the BPF, to consider making a tax-deductible contribution to our evaluation fund. Please note that the BPF has received approval from the IRS as a 501(c)(3). Recently, I have personally donated $2,500 to this fund (as well as donating all of my time for free). For a list of other individuals who have donated significant amounts to our evaluation fund please see our website. Contributions can be made using our website’s donations page or by contacting me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If possible please join us by donating whatever amount you deem appropriate, and please consider telling your friends and colleagues about this opportunity to help as well. With this funding we can highlight the recent hard work of our courageous competitor teams, demonstrating in a rigorous and independent way what has been accomplished so far. As always we at the BPF believe that such rigorous and open evaluation is key to spurring more scientists and medical researchers into the field. Together we can push forward the state-of-the-art in brain preservation.
President of the Brain Preservation Foundation