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Autism brain samples damaged after freezer problem

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BELMONT, MA (AP) -- Scientists say a freezer malfunction at a Boston-area hospital has damaged one-third of the world's largest collection of autism brain samples.

The Boston Globe reports that an official at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital in Belmont discovered the freezer had failed in late May without triggering alarms. Inside, 150 thawed brains had turned dark from decay. About a third were part of a collection of autism brains.

Dr. Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, says it was "a priceless collection."

The collection is owned by the advocacy and research organization Autism Speaks. The group says the loss's impact on future research is unclear. A spokeswoman says the brains had been split in half and the halves that were stored elsewhere weren't damaged. Some of the damaged brain tissue had already been used in studies.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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