An online atlas of the mouse spinal cord points researchers toward places where genes are active
Genetics researchers are showing a little backbone these days.
The Allen Institute for Brain Science in
When and where genes are active in the spinal cord guides development. It can also make a difference in passing along signals from brain to body. The Allen Institute’s atlas won’t contain information about what all of the genes are doing in the spinal cord. But the atlas will give scientists a starting place for investigations of the various gene functions.
Scientists in academia and industry already use the institute’s mouse brain atlas daily, Jones says. About 10,000 scientists log on to use the brain atlas every month, and an average of 1,000 people used it each day in June.
The project to map gene activity in the mouse brain cost $41 million and took three years to complete, but about half of the money was spent on infrastructure, he says.
That meant that the spinal cord project, launched in January, could proceed much faster and, in fact, is slated to be complete in early 2009.
Such data are a valuable resource for scientists, Jones says. “It saves people a week or a month here and there in their own research,” which could mean faster progress in learning how to heal spinal cord injuries or cure diseases.
Researchers will use the data to learn more about how the spinal cord develops and how genes implicated in diseases such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis should normally function. An international group of donors, including organizations focused on research into spinal cord injury and disease as well as a pharmaceutical company, funded the endeavor.
Allen Institute for Brain Science unveils world’s first genome-wide spinal cord atlas: [Go to].