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's only a matter of time before we'll have the same access to the human brain, and then the real fun begins.
“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.
Dec 6, 2006
genetic neurotopography in mice
Amazing, groundbreaking stuff: