Autism Speaks, the Simons Foundation and the Autism Science Foundation have launched “It Takes Brains,” the new donor registration site for Autism BrainNet.
Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring joined Autism BrainNet Director David Amaral and the Simons Foundation’s Marta Bennedetti in making the announcement at the annual Stakeholders Luncheon at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), in Atlanta today.
A year ago, the Simons Foundation and Autism Speaks announced their collaboration in establishing Autism BrainNet to collect, store and distribute the precious brain tissue needed to advance scientific understanding and treatment of autism. The new foundation grew out of the Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program.
As Autism BrainNet’s outreach program, the “It Takes Brains” website encourages families affected by the disorder to register as future donors.
“I would encourage any family to register to be donors,” says BrainNet family participant Valerie Hund, of Livermore, California. “Although we could not have anticipated losing our son to a seizure, for us, in that moment, we gave back and did something that felt right. So now Grayson can be a pioneer in helping make this next quantum leap in research. Out of something bad, something good came about.”
A severe shortage of human brain tissue has hindered the pace of autism research. At the same time, these precious donations have led to recent breakthroughs.
For instance, research has revealed structural differences between brain tissue from individuals affected by autism and typically developed brains. Other studies have highlighted differences in the numbers and sizes of brain nerve cells, or neurons. Still other research has picked up signs of increased inflammation in brain tissue from individuals affected by autism. In addition, studies have uncovered differences in how genes are expressed inside their brain cells.
However, researchers have not been able to adequately confirm these findings – in part due to the long-standing shortage of donations.