• Press Release

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Unyts Collaborate to Increase Brain Tissue Donation for Autism Research

Coordination Will Aid Research Efforts for a Better Understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • New York, NY
  • (September 12, 2017)

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) and Unyts, the designated organ procurement organization for the eight counties of western New York State, announced today a new agreement that will help increase and enhance the quantity of postmortem brain tissue available for critical autism research.

Unyts, which coordinates all organ, eye, and tissue donation in its region and works closely with families to provide donor-centered care, will work with ISMMS to raise awareness about the need for brain tissue and encourage postmortem brain donation, particularly for use in studying autism spectrum disorders. The collaboration will include shared educational opportunities for families and staff, joint awareness activities, and outreach to families in the region, which includes Buffalo and the surrounding counties.

ISMMS is one of five nodes of the Autism BrainNet, a collaborative effort among research institutions, funding agencies, and advocacy organizations to provide awareness for postmortem brain tissue donation, facilitate the donation process, and distribute tissue to researchers worldwide, funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

Studying brain tissue of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and comparing it to tissue from neurotypical brains enables scientists to study the causes of ASD and helps develop better biomarkers, new treatments, and pharmacological interventions. Unyts will now play a significant role in this important scientific research program. Unyts will collaborate with the Autism BrainNet node at ISMMS, including The Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, to educate people with autism, families affected by autism, and unaffected people about the option to register as a brain donor for research. This will lead to more individuals being able to make this important decision and reduce tissue recovery time for brain tissue.

“At Mount Sinai, we developed an ASD brain and tissue bank as part of the national Autism BrainNet consortium to serve as a scientific resource with the goal of expanding brain tissue availability to aid in the discovery of ASD treatments,” says Patrick R. Hof, MD, Vice Chair of the Fishberg Department of Neuroscience at ISMMS and Director of the Autism BrainNet node at Mount Sinai. “To that end, we intend to collect and curate the highest-quality tissue endowments that can be achieved in the New York metro area and western New York State as part of this national resource. Our collaboration with Unyts will facilitate our overall goal of providing crucial materials to enable structural, anatomic, genetic, and molecular studies of ASD by the best scientists based on the scientific relevance of their project, as outlined by Autism BrainNet. The expanded tissue bank will advance our understanding of the cellular and molecular basis of ASD, inform us about the neuropathology of these disorders, and open avenues toward treatment.”

“As one of the leading tissue recovery agencies for research across the United States, we felt that we could play a vital role in helping Autism BrainNet advance this program,” says Jason Bridge, Vice President for Eye and Tissue Services at Unyts. “Autism research has been historically hindered by a lack of qualified brain specimens, and I am hopeful that through our collaboration with the Autism BrainNet node at Mount Sinai, we can help change that.”

For more information about Autism BrainNet, visit www.takesbrains.org.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

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