Autism brain samples damaged after freezer problem
BOSTON, MASS.; June 11, 2012 -- Autism research may have suffered a serious setback, after a freezer storing brain samples malfunctioned.
Scientists say the malfunction at the Boston-area hospital has damaged one-third of the world's largest collection of autism brain samples.
The Boston Globe reports that an official at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont discovered the freezer had failed in late May without triggering alarms. Inside, 150 thawed brains had turned dark from decay. About a third were part of a collection of autism brains.
Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, says it was "a priceless collection."
Officials at the brain bank discovered the freezer had shut down in late May, without triggering two alarms.
In 2004, a study on brains stored in the bank was the first to find that autism involves the immune system.
Benes said the situation is so unusual - that the thermostat and alarm failed at the same time - that she cannot rule out foul play. She has not spoken to law enforcement, pending the completion of an internal investigation.
The collection is owned by the advocacy and research organization Autism Speaks. The group says the loss's impact on future research is unclear. A spokeswoman says the brains had been split in half and the halves that were stored elsewhere weren't damaged. Some of the damaged brain tissue had already been used in studies.
- Search for missing college student from Collegeville 20 min ago
- AccuWeather: Damp and Cooler
- WATCH: Action News Online
- WATCH ABC is available in Philadelphia!
- 15 motorcyclists arrested in New Jersey Turnpike chase
- NJ community joins forces to help 'storage locker' mom
- Bear spotted in Bensalem, Bucks County
- 1 winning Powerball ticket sold in Florida
- Sketches released of Del. attempted abduction suspect
- Hofstra student killed by police during break-in 49 min ago
- Woman faces DUI charges after NE Phila. crash
- White House insists Obama was not involved in IRS
- Phillies rally for 3-2 over Reds 55 min ago
- OTRC: Billboard Music Awards 2013 nominees list