• Press Release

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Joins Autism BrainNet Tissue Bank

Consortium of premiere research institutions will provide critically needed brain tissue for autism research

  • (May 29, 2014)

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.

To learn more, please call: 1-877-333-0990 or visit www.autismbrainnet.org and www.takesbrains.org

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.

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