Initiatives will create a human brain atlas, a developing mouse brain atlas, and a mouse spinal cord atlas.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science reported that it is undertaking three major projects designed to accelerate brain and spinal cord research and help scientists worldwide gain new insight into numerous diseases and disorders.

The Institute will create three new web-based atlas resources that map gene activity in the brain and spinal cord. These include an atlas designed to provide insight into gene expression in the human brain, the Allen Brain Atlas (ABA)-Human Brain; an atlas of the developing mouse brain designed to illustrate and enhance understanding of gene activity across multiple stages of development from birth through adulthood, ABA-Developing Mouse Brain; and an atlas of the mouse spinal cord, ABA-Mouse Spinal Cord, designed to inform research into spinal injuries due to disease, disorder, or trauma.

Building on new technology and information gained in the development of its inaugural project, the ABA-Mouse Brain, which was completed in 2006, the Institute will develop the ABA-Human Brain. When completed in approximately four years, the map will include a quantitative inventory of which genes are turned on in each brain structure and a finer-resolution image database pinpointing to the cellular level where a selected list of high-value genes are turned on, according to the institute.

The ABA-Developing Mouse Brain, which will take approximately two years, is expected to comprise an extensive image database showing where several thousand genes are expressed in the mouse brain at multiple stages of development, from before birth through adulthood. In addition, it will show gene expression in various organs within the embryo.

Expected to be complete in a one-year timeframe, the ABA-Spinal Cord will be a comprehensive genome-wide survey of gene expression that pinpoints where each gene is expressed in both juvenile and adult mouse spinal cord. Upon completion, the atlases will be made publicly available on the  internet at no charge.

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