New autism brain bank to help replace samples lost in McLean Hospital freezer malfunction

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Autism advocates and scientists are collaborating to form a national network for collecting brain samples of recently deceased people with the condition, relatives, and others, several participants are set to announce Thursday.

The network, to be called Autism BrainNet, will help researchers recover from the loss of dozens of brain samples when a freezer malfunctioned last year at a McLean Hospital brain bank in Belmont.

Samples collected by the network — which will solicit, process, and store brain samples donated by families — will allow scientists to compare brains of people with and without autism in hope of better understanding a condition that affects as many as 1 in 50 school-age children, according to government estimates.

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