Researchers Want More Donated Brains to Study Autism
Alycia Halladay Ross saw the warning signs in her daughter Sarah — staring off into space, lining toys up in rows, isolating herself at playtime — even from twin sister Jennifer. Sarah was diagnosed with autism — a developmental disorder that’s on the rise, affecting more American children than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. Researchers want to know why. To do that, they need to study the human brain after death. And that’s in limited supply. That’s why the Ross family has committed to donating Sarah’s. The Ross family is registered as brain tissue donors through Autism BrainNet. It’s a network of research institutions in the U.S. and Britain that collect, store and allocate donated brain tissue samples. Patrick Hof, MD, heads one of the four U.S.-based “nodes” of Autism BrainNet. He began his career studying Alzheimer’s. “It’s only at the end that they have had a horrible disease. Patients with autism never had that chance. And families never really had that chance, either,” he said. Autism BrainNet aims to educate people about brain tissue donation.
-Dr. Patrick Hof, Professor, Neuroscience, Ophthalmology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai