Newswise — (NEW YORK – May 29) The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has joined Autism BrainNet, a new network of research institutions created to collect, store and distribute postmortem brain tissue resources that will help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the causes, treatment and cure of autism spectrum disorder, which now affects an estimated one in 68 children. Launched by the Simons Foundation and Autism Speaks, Autism BrainNet recently joined with the Autism Science Foundation to unveil the Autism BrainNet registration site, It Takes Brains.
"In order for researchers to understand the fundamental genetic and neuropathological aspects of autism spectrum disorder, the study of brain tissue from individuals with autism spectrum disorder is essential, but there is a shortage of donated tissue,” says Patrick R. Hof, MD, Vice-Chair for the Department of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and New York Node Director for Autism BrainNet. "While we know autism is a neurological disorder, the alterations in brain structure and function that account for this widespread and lifelong behavioral disorder remain unknown. Gaining this understanding will influence how we develop strategies for prevention and effective treatment.”
Previous research on brain tissue has shown that autistic brains are structurally different in the number and size of neurons. There are also mutations in several genes related to synapse function. Autistic brains may have higher levels of inflammation compared to the brains of those who do not suffer from the disorder. However, more widespread data and study has been stymied by the shortage of brain tissue samples.
The Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will serve as a collection and storage site for brain tissue samples, receiving samples from the metropolitan New York area and beyond. Other inaugural members of the Autism BrainNet include the University of California MIND Institute in Sacramento, the Harvard University/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. Additional sites, including international nodes, are expected to join in the future.
The term "autism” describes a set of brain disorders caused by either genetic, environmental or the combined effects of both. The disorders are characterized by communicational, social and behavioral difficulties as well as repetitive behaviors.
Autism BrainNet is expected to enable researchers to gain new insights into the disorder, which will aid future research and possible treatment. The focus of the newly launched "It Takes Brains” registration site is to educate families affected by autism so they may better understand the need for brain tissue donation and to encourage their registration with Autism BrainNet to increase potential donations.
About the Mount Sinai Health System The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community‐based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12‐minority‐owned free‐standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
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