A world-wide collaboration will see several researchers attempt to map the entire human brain which is made up of 200 billion cells.
Allen Institute in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine’s Xiaolong Jiang and Tolias Labs will work together to map cells in the brain by their type and function to help create a primate brain atlas.
Researchers will be using a technique called Patch-seq that was developed by both Xiaolong Jiang and Tolias Labs.
“To understand how the brain works mechanistically we must understand the basic cell types that make up neuronal circuit and how they are wired together to give rise to function,” said Dr Andreas Tolias.
“It is like trying to figure out how a radio works – we have to open it up and look at the different components to see how they are connected and what they do.
“Patch-seq allows us to measure and relate many features from the same neurons, creating a Rosetta stone of the primate brain. This will help us understand the logic behind the incredible cellular diversity we find in the brain.”
It’s been estimated that the project will take five years to complete and by the end of it will give professionals a data base to determine genes for cognitive diseases and disorders.
“By having a brain atlas mapping out all cell types and their gene expression, we can understand how the brain is composed, how cell types are eventually connected together and how they function properly, which may allow us to be able to pinpoint the cell type-specific synaptic malfunction for these diseases,” said Dr Xiaolong Jiang.
The initiative has been granted $173 million to the Allen Institute with funding provided by the Brain Initiative Cells Atlas Network (BICAN).
Experts have likened this mission to that of the Human Genome Project in which scientists mapped the entire human genome and determined the base pairs that make up human DNA.
It took an international team of researchers 13 years to finish.