Dec 6, 2006

genetic neurotopography in mice

Amazing, groundbreaking stuff:
Unveiled in its full glory today, the Allen Brain Atlas contains 85 million images, and enough data to fill 20,000 iPods. It documents the activity of more than 21,000 genes across the entire mouse brain in such fine detail that it is possible pick out individual cells. Already, the atlas has revealed that the mammalian brain contains “hidden” structures, defined by common patterns of gene activity.

“It is a profound enabling tool that is going to dramatically facilitate and accelerate research,” says Marc Tessier-Lavigne, senior vice-president of the biotech firm Genentech in South San Francisco, US. “By having all of the information collated in one place, you can do all of the searching that would not otherwise be possible.”

Ed Lein and colleagues at the Allen Institute Brain Science in Seattle, US, created the atlas using a technique called "in situ hybridisation". This involves bathing thin slices of brain tissue in chemically labelled RNA probes that bind to sequences, called messenger RNA, produced by individual genes.

The process had to be repeated for each gene, and for slices of tissue taken from different parts of the brain, to build a 3D map of gene activity that can be navigated using software available on the web.
It's only a matter of time before we'll have the same access to the human brain, and then the real fun begins.

5 comments:

neubrain said...

Common Allen Brain Atlas Misconceptions:
http://braintechsci.blogspot.com/2006/10/paul-allen-brain-atlas-misconceptions.html

neubrain said...

Common Allen Brain Atlas Misconceptions:
http://braintechsci.blogspot.com/2006/10/paul-allen-brain-atlas-misconceptions.html

Jim Anderson said...

neubrain,

Thanks for stopping by. Is your group's process essentially similar, or do you utilize a different technology? I would be the last to want to spread misinformation, or hype something that doesn't deserve it.

neubrain said...

several groups use similar processes, though not necessarily looking just at mRNA distributions which tells you nothing about protein expression or morphology. The Allen brain atlas is a useful tool but is only a small step. But the Allen brain people would like you to believe they've found the cure for cancer and brain diseases. This type of excessive hype is detrimental because it raises false hopes in many people.

Murky Thoughts said...

Go Ed!