Sandy vs Science

Millions of people were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as the storm caused widespread power outages, flooding, and in some cases even death. Sandy had some devastating effects on the science community as well. Perhaps the laboratory most affected was at New York University, where thousands of mice used to study heart disease, cancer, and mental disorders were lost due to the storm. “Animal resource staff was on site continuously to mitigate the damage from the storm, but due to the speed and force of the surge, animal rescue attempts were unsuccessful,” read a statement released by the NYU Langone Medical Center last Wednesday. “We are deeply saddened by the loss of these animals’ lives and the impact this has on the many years of important work conducted by our researchers.”

This is the second time in recent months that years-long scientific research has been compromised. In June, power failures at a brain bank in Boston led to contaminated autism samples. A week after the incident, the McLean Hospital released a statement claiming the damage wasn’t as catastrophic as had been reported. “While the damage resulting from the thaw is significant, news reports that the brains were fully decayed and unavailable for research are inaccurate,” the statement said. “Based on quality control tests, it appears that the DNA is intact and can be used for genetic research. In addition, most of the samples had been bisected, with one hemisphere being placed in formalin, a tissue fixative, and one half being placed in the freezer. The brains preserved in formalin remain available for all research projects.” No more information on the actual extent of the damage is available at this time. Sandy’s devastation was challenging for millions of people, but emergency situations can be especially troublesome for people with dementia. NBCNews.com has a story on an elderly woman in New Jersey who has Alzheimer’s disease and refused to evacuate her home before the storm. She made it through the hurricane without any “ill effects,” according to the article, but her story highlights the challenges posed by such patients.

It was not all doom and gloom this past week. Sandy spared the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island from major damage, mostly because of the lab’s diligent preparation for the storm. There’s now a makeshift sign outside of the facility that reads “Sandy versus Science…Science Wins.” CHSL has posted a similar photo on its Facebook page:

Science beats sandy

– Andrew Kahn

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