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NAAR Funds New Initiative to Expand Autism Tissue Program

Program Unites ASA, Organ Procurement Groups and Medical Examiner's Offices to Increase Availability of Post-Mortem Brain Tissue for Autism Research
April 23, 2007

PRINCETON, NJ - The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) has recently funded a new collaborative program that brings together the autism community with professional organ procurement organizations and medical examiner's offices in four states to increase the amount of brain tissue available to scientists focusing on autism research.

NAAR recently committed $140,000 to launch the initiative - a new component of the Autism Tissue Program, which NAAR first established and funded in 1998 with the Autism Society of America (ASA). The collaborative new program will develop a standard protocol for outreach, registration, tissue collection and storage and to increase the acquisition of high-quality, post-mortem tissue for autism research. The Autism Tissue Program is a science-driven brain tissue donation program that makes post-mortem brain tissue available to as many qualified scientists as possible to advance autism research.

"In the field of neuroscience, as it pertains to autism research, brain tissue is the most valuable material on the planet, enabling scientists to go far beyond the constraints of other technologies and study autism on both a cellular and molecular level," said Prisca Chen Marvin, NAAR president. "We are very excited about this new element of the Autism Tissue Program, which will result in more tissue for research and improved protocols that benefit donor families and researchers."

The new initiative will partner with ASA chapters in Iowa, Maine, Michigan and New Mexico that will focus on outreach, education and awareness.

"We believe the Autism Tissue Program is an important component in our understanding of the autism puzzle and are excited to continue our collaboration in this exciting new stage of the program," said Rob Beck, executive director of the ASA and ASA Foundation. "ASA's chapters, which are the backbone of our awareness efforts on behalf of the autism community, will play a critical role in helping move this initiative forward. Together, we can become an effective force in increasing autism research over the next decade and beyond."

Additionally, the program will work with organ procurement organizations, medical examiner's offices and statewide developmental disability programs to develop uniform standards that are more sensitive to the needs of donor families and result in protocols that will yield higher quality tissue that is more conducive to broad applications of autism research.

Without brain tissue, studies that could lead to treatments and an eventual cure for autism spectrum disorders cannot be done. Brain tissue studies also increase the research community's ability to learn to diagnose autism earlier and better assess the risks of inheritance.

The Autism Tissue Program is co-sponsored by NAAR, the Autism Society of America and the M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute at UC Davis, with the National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), Mental Health (NIMH), and Neurological Disorders & Stroke (NINDS). To enroll or for more information, call (877) 333 - 0999 or visit