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150 frozen brains ruined in freezer accident at Harvard research hospital

Director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center called the collection "priceless."
Clone of Brain bankEnlarge
Dr. Clive Bruton, a neuropathologist at Runwell Psychiatric Hospital in Essex, England, holds one of 8,000 brains stored in their 'brain bank.' (ANDREW WINNING/AFP/Getty Images)

Boston scientists said a freezer malfunction at McLean Hospital has damaged a third of the world's largest collection of autism brain samples, according to the Associated Press.

The Boston Globe reported 150 thawed brains used for research were destroyed after the freezer failed in late May and did not set off the precautionary alarms.

Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, told the Globe it was "a priceless collection."

“You can’t express its value in dollar amounts,’’ said Benes, who added she cannot rule out foul play due to the unusual nature of the malfunction in which the alarm and the thermostat failed.

The AP wrote that the brain samples came from those who had died from neurological conditions such as autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or had bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

According to the Globe, more than 50 of the brains were from Autism Speaks’ Autism Tissue Program.

A spokeswoman for the group said the brains were split in half and the other halves were stored elsewhere and were not damaged. However, she said, the overall impact this would have on their research was unknown.

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Carlos Pardo, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University told the Globe, "the damage to these brains could slow autism research by a decade as the collection is restored."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/news/science/150-frozen-brains-ruined-freezer-accident-at-harvard-research-hospital

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