A major US brain bank was left with as many as 54 damaged brain samples that were supposed to be used for autism research, due to a freezer malfunction officials said on Tuesday.
The reasons for the freezer malfunction remain unclear, said the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC) at McLean Hospital, which is the largest federally funded brain bank in the United States.
"A full investigation has been launched to determine what caused the freezer, as well as two alarm systems that should have been triggered by the rising temperature, to fail," said the HBTRC statement.
The damaged samples were part of a collection of 3,000 brain samples that the center keeps for research -- both US and international -- into disorders such as autism, Parkinson's disease, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.
"This was a priceless collection," Francine Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, told the Boston Globe. "You can't express its value in dollar amounts."
One expert told the newspaper that the loss could cause a decade-long setback to autism research.