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Thaw at Brain Bank Deals Setback to Autism Research

from NPR

The details sound like something out of a bad science-fiction movie. A freezer storing human brains for research went on the fritz, and nobody at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center knew for days. Two separate alarms that should have alerted staff to the problem failed to sound late last month.

By the time one of the managers at the federally funded repository opened the affected freezer May 31, the temperature was well above freezing and 150 brains had begun to thaw. The Boston Globe first reported on the mishap, which looks like a painful blow to autism research.

Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Carlos Pardo-Villamizaro told the Globe the damage to the brains in the autism collection could slow research on the disorder by 10 years. About one-third of the brains in the malfunctioning freezer (one of 24 at the bank) were from people who had been diagnosed with autism, said Adriana Bobinchock, a spokeswoman at McLean Hospital, site of the brain bank. "Yes, this is a significant loss, but there's still a lot available for autism research," she told Shots.

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