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NewsWatch: 2012: Brain tissue needed to aid autism research

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[Kristen Simoes:] Autism. It’s the fastest growing developmental disability in the nation. One in 110 children face an autism spectrum disorder.

Here at the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, the focus is on finding answers that will someday lead to a cure. But they’re faced with a considerable challenge: a lack of human brain tissue to study.

[Cyndi Schumann, Mind Institute BEARS director:] This information is
necessary for us to understand what is causing the disorder and how we can treat it.

[Kristen Simoes:] Now the mind institute is launching Brain Endowment for Autism Research Scientists. It’s a new program to raise awareness of the vital need for brain tissue donations and to help establish a network that links similar collections for scientists across the country.

[David Amaral, MIND Institute research director:] Every brain we receive allows us to do more research about autism. Every brain is precious.

[Valerie Hund, parent of donor:] No one ever wonders or thinks of losing a child. It’s life’s toughest crisis, tragedy.

[Kristen Simoes:] Valerie Hund lost her 16-year old son Grayson, who had autism, in 2011. She struggled to find a way to cope.

[Valerie Hund:] As we were up all night grieving we thought … what could we do?

[Kristen Simoes:] The Hund family decided to donate Grayson’s brain tissue to autism research. They called the MIND Institute.

[Kristen Simoes:] While we may mark the “donor” box on a driver’s license without much thought, brain donation is rarely discussed. The MIND Institute hopes to change that and, in turn, change what we currently know about autism.

[Dan Geschwind, UCLA professor of neurology and psychology:] We’re at a bottleneck. We can’t do certain kinds of research because we literally don’t have the materials to do that with.

[Valerie Hund:] It really brought us to a point where we knew that even though in our tragedy, Grayson lives on — and his ability to be a pioneer, perhaps, and looking at maybe not a cure but maybe we can find that needle in a haystack and somebody can tell us with Grayson’s contribution, with our contribution, we’re making a difference.

[Kristen Simoes:] Reporting for UC Davis, I’m Kristen Simoes.



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Original Air Date: March 19, 2012    Total Run Time: 00:01:55

Media contact(s):
• Paul Pfotenhauer, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6397, pepfotenhauer@ucdavis.edu