U.S. scientists recently completed the world’s first anatomically and genetically detailed map of the human brain. Those involved in the project reported that their work could lead to a number of new treatments for a variety of brain diseases. The project, conducted at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, was performed using brand new technology and took over four years to complete. The team mapped the biochemistry of two average adult human brains, and in the process revealed a ninety-four percent similarity amongst all human brains. The study also showed that no less than eighty-two percent of all human genes are expressed in the brain.
Obviously, the true effects of this project’s completion have yet to fully come into focus, although the way the findings are used in future projects will be telling as to just how significant the atlas is. The resulting findings have provided the basis for the Allen Human Brain Atlas, which is a public resource recently made available online to researchers. Using this tool allows researchers to identify over one thousand anatomical sites in the human brain, as well as over one hundred million data points which indicate the particular gene expression as well as the underlying biochemistry of the individual sites. This new tool has already made a significant impact upon the scientific community in the field of brain research, and will likely prove to be invaluable with a number of upcoming research projects.
The atlas can be used by researchers in a number of different ways, such as to examine how disease and injury can affect different areas of the brain. Researchers will also be able to target where a drug becomes active in the brain, thus increasing the effectiveness and providing more insight into how various pharmaceutical therapies work. Allan Jones, who is chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Brain science, said in a news release that to date, a no truly definitive atlas of the human brain has existed, at least not to the degree of detail they have achieved.
The map of the human brain and the tool created to navigate it provides researchers with a better understanding of the most complex and important organ in the human body. In order to understand how genes can be used in the brain, scientists within the medical community can take advantage of this tool. The atlas will also, according to Jones, offer venues to new types of treatment for brain disease and disorder treatments, ranging from mental illnesses to drug addictions to treatment of Alzheimer’s and much more.