VCU ‘Brain Bank’ searches for Alzheimer’s answers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There is a lab tucked away at Virginia Commonwealth University that could one day wipe out Alzheimer’s Disease.

“It’s difficult.  It’s not an easy disease for a caregiver,” says Fran Zehmer.

An autopsy conducted by the Brain Bank made a positive Alzheimer's diagnosis for Jack Zehmer's family.
An autopsy conducted by the Brain Bank made a positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis for Jack Zehmer’s family.

Her husband Jack passed away in February after a twelve-year battle.  In life, he had been a well-known architectural historian.  Now in death, he is part of future breakthroughs at the VCU Brain Tissue Resource Facility.

“If we can get a reference base for these degenerative diseases, then we can use that as a resource to try and figure out what’s going on with some of these diseases,” explains Severn Churn, Ph.D.

Churn says the Brain Bank, as it is often called, opened in 2010 to give researchers an opportunity to create new targeted therapies.  For families, it pays for an autopsy, which in many cases confirms their loved one really had Alzheimer’s.  There is also the satisfaction they get from helping others.

Severn Churn, Ph.D. conducts ongoing research at the VCU Brain Tissue Resource Facility.
Severn Churn, Ph.D. conducts ongoing research at the VCU Brain Tissue Resource Facility.

“I’m doing my part to make sure nobody goes through this terrible experience that I had to go through,” Churn relays the message he often hears from families who decide to donate a loved one’s brain to the facility.

Zehmer adds that as sad as it was losing Jack, she is grateful he can now offer hope.

“My husband has made a contribution,” she says.  “He has given back for future families by donating his brain, so possibly we will have research that will slow down or end the disease.”

8News is taking the lead on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s November 5.  The fundraising effort is already underway.  Follow this link to register for the walk or make a donation.

Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.

Comments are closed.