'First Comprehensive Gene Map' of the Brain Shows How Genes Express Themselves Neurologically

The Brain Atlas

Allen Institute for Brain Science

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has completed what it is calling the first comprehensive gene map of the human brain as part of its development of the Allen Human Brain Atlas, a public resource that it hopes will accelerate clinical understandings of how the human brain works. The genetic mapping of two human brains showed a striking 94 percent similarity between the two, which could help researchers establish patterns and otherwise figure out in which parts of our brains to look for different expressions of genetic differences.

The idea behind the brain atlas is to develop a tool that researchers can access to determine how the genome is expressed in the brain, a process which is--needless to say--complex. Over four years, the ABI crunched more than 100 million data points to pinpoint 1,000 different anatomical sites in the brain that exhibit particular gene expression.

And for good measure--and comparability purposes--they did it with two adult human brains so scientists can see not only how genes are expressed in a particular brain, but the places where the human brain is genetically identical and where differences in genomes are expressed differently in the brain.

That last part is key for research purposes. Clinicians and researchers trying to zero in on the cause of a certain neurological condition or refine the search for a treatment can use the atlas to better understand how a treatment might work or how a mental illness or condition manifests itself.

As the genome becomes increasingly better understood and particular genes are isolated as the causes or indicators of certain disease expressions, anatomical models like the Allen Brain Atlas could go a long way toward helping researchers make the connection between the genome and the physical brain, using data they wouldn't otherwise have access to. Less time spent connecting all the dots means more time spent looking for the right therapeutic solutions.