The Allen Institute Leads Global Effort to Map the Human Mind

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Scientists at the Allen Institute are leading a new global collaboration to map the nearly 200 billion cells in the human brain by type and function.

Cooperat Funded by the National Institutes of Health Brain research through the development of innovative neurotechnologies (BRAIN) as part of the Brain Initiative Cell Atlas Network, or BICAN. It will also build detailed atlases of macaque and monkey brains.

The project is led by Ed Lin, PhD, a senior researcher at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a division of the Allen Institute, and Hongkui Zeng, PhD, executive vice president and director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The Human Primate Atlas scholarship project also includes subprojects led by researchers from 17 other institutions in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

“We aim to create something transformative for the field that can only be done collaboratively, by bringing in an all-star staff of experts from a variety of disciplines,” said Lin.

He adds: “This is critical work: We need to better understand the human brain if we are to hope to cure brain diseases, and specifically we need to better understand brain function and structure. The cell atlases we are building with the support of the BRAIN Initiative promise to lead to a faster understanding of the fundamentals of many diseases of the brain.”

“We are honored to be recognized through these grants and are thrilled to partner with leading researchers around the world to build the first comprehensive map of the human brain,” said Roy Costa, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of the Allen Institute. “This atlas will open new doors in neuroscience and, eventually, medicine as well.”

Four additional BICAN grants to the Allen Institute will support network coordination and management. They include building a web-based cognitive platform using BICAN results to accelerate scientific discovery, mapping the developing mouse brain, and mouse brain cell connectivity and function. Like all Allen Institute resources, results, techniques, and data from these projects will be made publicly available.

These projects were built earlier NIH BRAIN Projects Funded at the Allen Institute and elsewhere to map entire mouse brain cells and parts of the human brain using the full set of genes switched on in individual cells by single-cell transcription. Recently, neuroscientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and their collaborators released their first search data set on Alzheimer’s disease, They classified cell types based on gene activity.

The publicly available data set captures extensive cellular and molecular information obtained from more than 1.2 million neurons and other brain cells from 84 people who donated their brains to science after their death.

Understanding cell types in commonly studied mammals such as mice is key to improving translational research to ultimately benefit people with brain diseases and disorders, said Zeng, who also co-leads a Harvard-based BICAN project to map cell types at all stages of development. . from the mouse brain.

“We need to better understand the similarities and differences between the human brain and those of other primates and rodents, which are often subjects of research,” Zeng said. Comparing cell types is one of the most powerful and accurate ways of comparing brains of different types, and we do it on a granular level and on a comprehensive scale that we can achieve. Better link animal studies and animal models to the structure and function of the human brain itself – this is one of the main goals we want to achieve.”

The five awards combined totaled more than $173 million to fund these projects, including portions of projects implemented at the collaborating institutions, over the next five years.

“With the announcement of the BICAN Awards, we are making an exciting shift in the BRAIN Initiative’s comprehensive cell census program, which began in 2014,” said John Ngai, Director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative.