June 03, 2010
Allen Human Brain Atlas

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has spent royally on research to chart which genes are active in each part of the human brain. One result is the Allen Human Brain Atlas. If you want to journey into the the world of brain's gene expression here's your chance.

SEATTLE, Wash.—May 24, 2010—The Allen Institute for Brain Science announced today that it has launched the Allen Human Brain Atlas, a publicly available online atlas charting genes at work throughout the human brain. The data provided in this initial data release represent the most extensive and detailed body of information about gene activity in the human brain to date, documenting which genes are expressed, or "turned on" where. In the coming years, the Atlas will be expanded with more data and more sophisticated search, analysis and visualization tools to create a comprehensive resource useful to an increasingly wide range of scientists and research programs worldwide.

The Allen Human Brain Atlas, available at www.brain-map.org, is a unique multi-modal atlas of the human brain that integrates anatomic and genomic information to create a searchable, three-dimensional map of gene activity in the brain. Data modalities in this resource include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and histology—providing information about gross neuroanatomy, pathways of neural connections, and microscopic anatomy, respectively—as well as gene expression data derived from multiple approaches.

Another research effort took a very detailed look at which genes are expressed in different parts of the hypothalamus in mice.

June 3, 2010- A Johns Hopkins and Japanese research team has generated the first comprehensive genetic “parts” list of a mouse hypothalamus, an enigmatic region of the brain — roughly cherry-sized, in humans — that controls hunger, thirst, fatigue, body temperature, wake-sleep cycles and links the central nervous system to control of hormone levels. 

Flaws in hypothalamus development may underlie both inborn and acquired metabolic balance problems that can lead to obesity, diabetes, mood disorders and high blood pressure, according to a report on the study published May 2 in the advance online publication ofNature Neuroscience.

Gene microarrays were used to measure gene expression of very small and thin slices of mouse brains.

The team’s first challenge was to dissect away, at the very start of neural development, the part of the mouse brain which develops into the hypothalamus, and then cut tiny slices of this region for use in microarray analysis, a technology that reveals multiple gene activity. By analyzing all the roughly 20,000 genes in the mouse genome, the team identified 1200 as strongly activated in developing hypothalamus and characterized the cells within the hypothalamus in which they were activated. The team then characterized the expression of the most interesting 350 genes in detail using another gene called Shh, for sonic hedgehog, as a landmark to identify the precise region of the hypothalamus in which these genes were turned on. This involved processing close to 20,000 tissue sections — painstakingly sliced at one-fiftieth of a millimeter thickness and then individually examined.

20 years ago research that looked at the genetic activity of so many genes simultaneously was not practical. Now the ability to look at gene activity of hundreds or thousands of genes at the same time makes possible a much more detailed look at how the brain functions. The tools for doing this are of such recent vintage that the full effects of the existence of these tools has yet to be felt. In the 2010s the amount of data collected about gene expression will go up by orders of magnitude and the meaning of brain genes will become much clearer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 June 03 11:24 PM  Brain Genetics


Comments
STM said at June 4, 2010 12:20 PM:

Wow, I first read that as Alien Human Brain Atlas. Anyway, cool blog.

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