What is Your Brain Worth?

Neurological diseases cost billions, but we shouldn't overspend on brain research.

Glenn McGee
Oct 1, 2007

According to two European epidemiological studies, approximately one-third of disease resources are spent on neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease, dementia, and stroke. According to the Alzheimer's Association, someone develops the disease every 72 seconds. That's about the time it will take you to skim this column.

As the population ages, these brain diseases will become even more expensive, complex and challenging. In July, neuroscientist Lars Sundstrom of Southampton University argued in EMBO Reports (8:S40-S43, 2007) that our institutions of science and medicine are not prepared to create a plethora of new drugs to help those with brain disorders. He's right.

To tackle this seemingly-insurmountable problem, Sundstrom proposes that we come up with an entirely new system for finding new drugs that target neurological disorders. Specifically, he suggests we construct in vitro systems that mimic the functions of an entire organ, using tissues generated by stem cells (preferably embryonic). This system...