MAILMAN RESEARCH CENTER
As you have likely seen in recent news reports, 147 postmortem brain samples—54 that were earmarked for autism research and 93 that were part of our larger neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disease collection—were recently compromised during a freezer failure at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC) at McLean Hospital.
A full investigation, led by an independent investigative team, is under way to determine how this catastrophic failure occurred. It should be noted that contrary to recent news reports, we do not believe there was foul play.
While the damage resulting from the thaw is significant, news reports that the brains were fully decayed and unavailable for research are inaccurate. Based on quality control tests, it appears that the DNA is intact and can be used for genetic research. In addition, most of the samples had been bisected, with one hemisphere being placed in formalin, a tissue fixative, and one half being placed in the freezer. The brains preserved in formalin remain available for all research projects.
Stewardship of a precious resource such as postmortem brain tissue is a great responsibility and the HBTRC is deeply committed to protecting and caring for the more than 3,000 samples it maintains. The HBTRC has completed a full inspection on all of its equipment to ensure the quality and safety of its collection is upheld.
This has been difficult and emotional time for everyone involved—particularly the families of donors and our staff. Over the past several days, we have been deeply touched by the outpouring of support from the community. Your thoughtful words of compassion and support have been greatly appreciated. Despite this tragic occurrence, we continue to focus our efforts on encouraging brain donation so researchers globally can continue to investigate the cause and one day, discover better treatments and possibly cures, for psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases.
Thank you, again, for all of your support.
|Scott Rauch, MD
President and Psychiatrist in Chief, McLean Hospital
|Francine Benes, MD, PhD
Director, Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center