Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, so it is important for researchers to have access to developing human brains. But acquiring donations of brains from young children is painfully hard.
Two foundations in the United States which fund autism research have now announced the launch of Autism BrainNet, a network of sites which will acquire donated brains from children who have died, and will process, store and distribute the tissue to researchers.
The Simons Foundation will donate US$5 million and Autism Speaks will donate $2.5 million to the project in its first five years. They made the announcement today at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Sebastian, Spain.
The first four partners are the Autism Tissue Programme in Boston, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the MIND Institute of the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas South-western Medical School in Dallas.
Each of the participating institutions will collect tissue in its own region, but applications for tissue from researchers will be reviewed centrally. Requests directly related to autism will have priority. Researchers who receive tissue will be required to return all data they generate, which will be made available freely through the Autism BrainNet portal.
Autism researcher David Amaral from the MIND Institute will be the first director.
Autism BrainNet will engage in active outreach activity to explain the importance of brain banks for neurodevelopmental diseases.