The first living pediatric patients brain tissue laboratory in Europe

The Institut de Recerca Sant Joan de Déu and SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital is launching a project to establish a laboratory for living pediatric patients brain tissue. This project is being developed in collaboration with Dr. Óscar Marín, a distinguished professor and researcher at King's College London.

This significant project will be the first of its kind in Europe. It is part of the alliance established in 2023 with the La Caixa Foundation to promote research into rare pediatric diseases at the hospital.

Dr. Óscar Marín, an internationally recognized expert in neuroscience, has been leading the Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at King's College London since 2014. His work focuses on human brain development, and the collaboration with SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital aims to advance research from early childhood and establish a joint laboratory.

Dr. Óscar Marín explains that the main goal of this ambitious project is to understand how human brain development works by studying its properties. Much of the research in this field relies on human cells in culture or animal models, but they do not fully reflect the complexity of the human brain. With the establishment of this new laboratory, researchers will be able to access living pediatric brain tissue, which is essential for advancing our knowledge of human brain development.


The brain tissue will be obtained from patients at Sant Joan de Déu Hospital who undergo brain surgery, always with their consent. This tissue typically includes pathological material removed from the patient, but sometimes it is also necessary to remove healthy tissue, for example, to access deep-seated brain tumors.

Currently, these procedures are already performed in adult interventions, but in few places in the world are they done in children. This procedure requires extensive collaboration between clinical teams (surgeons, neurosurgeons, pathologists, etc.) and laboratory teams (technicians, researchers, biobank technicians, etc.). For this reason, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital has implemented a new procedure involving different services to obtain and preserve these tissues with total assurance.


Under the guidance of Dr. Óscar Marín, six researchers are set to join in the coming months to establish a unique laboratory, expected to be operational by early 2025. The team will collaborate closely with researchers at King's College London to develop and refine experimental techniques to the highest standards.

“This laboratory will enable us to explore new scientific inquiries and challenges related to human brain development using cutting-edge technology and methodology. Additionally, we aim to identify the origins and characteristics of certain nervous system diseases. Our initial focus will be on pediatric epilepsy, a brain activity disorder present in various rare diseases whose origins are not yet fully understood," stated Dr. Joan Comella, director of the Institut de Recerca Sant Joan de Déu Research and director of Research, Innovation, and Learning at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital.

The project's goal is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying epilepsy and develop potential therapeutic interventions. The new laboratory team will employ advanced techniques such as transcriptomics and genomics to study brain tissue in unprecedented detail.

Moreover, this laboratory will pave the way for exploring various other pediatric brain conditions and developing personalized medicine through the design of specific treatments for each patient utilizing gene and cell therapies, which can be manufactured at the hospital itself, thanks to the new Advanced Therapies Platform.

"In the long term, we hope that this project will not only advance scientific knowledge but also bring hope and develop new treatments that can enhance the quality of life for our sick children. The collaboration between SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital · IRSJD and King's College London, with the support of the La Caixa Foundation, represents an innovative model of how different institutions can work together towards the same goal."

The collaboration between SJD Barcelona Children’s Hospital · IRSJD and King's College London, with the support of the La Caixa Foundation, represents an innovative model of how different institutions can work together towards the same goal.