Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Freezer Failure: Could foul play be involved?

A few days ago, a rather distressing news story, at least to me, came out stating that a freezer containing about 50 postmortem autistic brains had malfunctioned, rendering them useless  for most research studies.  One scientist stated that this could set research back ten years.  However, one-half of 34 of the 50 brains had been preserved in formalin, so they could still be viable to use in some studies.  I'm not sure, but I remember hearing there are various advantages to freezing brains to preserve them rather than preserving them in formalin, such as certain enzymes and cell parts being intact.  Any neuroscientist who may happen to read this can correct me or shed further light on the subject.

As regular readers of the gadfly blog know, I long for a cure for autism and the end of the suffering it causes so many.  I feel that post-mortem autopsies may be our "ace in the hole" as there are probably no good animal models for autism and fMRI scanners probably can only yield limited information in living brains.  Because autistic people, often live out their lives and most persons are diagnosed young, there are only limited amounts of brain tissue available and the recent events may make this problem worse.  

One line of the article quoting lab director Francine Benes was particularly compelling:

Benes said the situation is so unusual - the perfect storm of alarm and thermostat failure and the concentration of samples - that she cannot rule out foul play. She said she has not spoken to law enforcement officials, pending the completion of the internal investigation. 

One wonders who would have motive for tampering with autistic postmortem brains.  Though, I'm not accusing anyone without proof or stating there are any certainties, I can't help thinking of that deranged cult of hatemongers, the neurodiversity movement.  These people are opposed to finding a cure for autism and are opposed to science funding this endeavor.

Normally these brains are distributed between twenty-four freezers.  A month before the malfunction, the brains were all moved into one freezer to make distribution easier.  There is an alarm system that is supposed to go off if the temperature falls below around minus 81 degrees Celsius.  The alarm system failed to go off.  Also, there's an external thermostat that gives the temperature and it read minus 79 degrees Celsius.  The freezers cannot be opened regularly as that might tamper with the expensive equipment used to house the brains.  One day a technician opened the freezer to obtain a sample and the normally cold air didn't whoosh out.  They found that in spite of the external thermometer reading, the temperature was actually about 7 degrees Celsius or about the same as a refrigerator.

I wonder what the probability is that right at the time the brains were moved, the alarm system would not happen to work and the thermometer would malfunction.  There was  a security camera and checkpoints to protect the brain samples.  However, this does not rule out an inside job.

Interestingly enough, this collection of brain tissue was owned by Autism Speaks, the organization that is consistently reviled and scorned by angry members of the ND movement.  Some years ago, I donated my brain to the autism speaks tissue program.  I've written about this elsewhere. This was before AS engaged in a variety of activities that I don't approve of, but more about that below.

Though, as mentioned above, in spite of the fact the neurodiversity movement has expressed contempt for autism speaks, they seem to be odd bedfellows.  At times, their executive staff has attended meetings of GRASP, the organization founded by Michael John Carley.  Without consulting me, Carley stated in his book that no autistics want to be cured of their autism.  They have funded Alex Plank's Autism Talk TV endeavor, though Plank stated that autism speaks' endgame was to develop a plan to find a way to abort autistic fetuses and engage in eugenics.  They also awarded a half million dollar grant to neurodiversity rogue scientist, Laurent Mottron.

Benes has stated that the lab is conducting an internal investigation before going to law enforcement authorities.  I look forward to reading any new developments if any.  


M.J. said...

I would really like to think that no one purposely tried to destroy the brains....

Anonymous said...

Ah man, that sucks! Hopefully the researchers can still analyze the autistic brains that didn't unfreeze enough to cause much decay.

nerkul said...

"Some years ago, I donated my brain to the autism speaks tissue program."

You're very brave to keep writing this blog. It hardly shows.

jonathan said...

Nerkul, once again, I don't know what the F*** you're talking about. I doubt you do either.

PonderingMind said...

Hopefully there weren't any brains of those who suffered from language disorders that decayed from the freezer, either. That would set things back even further so speech therapists would have to continue to "manipulate" ELD, RLD and MRELD clients, making some of them sound like robots.

jonathan said...

Good point, Roger. Of course, it's possible there was some technical malfunction and there is certainly no concrete evidence of foul play in spite of some coincidences. Not sure, we'll hear anything more about this story though.