Brain disorders pose major challenges to researchers, in part because of the complexity of the central nervous system and the lack of good models of disease. Now there's an online navigation system or sorts to help guide researchers in studying the anatomy and biochemistry of the human brain--the Allen Human Brain Atlas.
A product of the Seattle-based Allen Institute of Brain Science, the human brain atlas is the first resource to map all known anatomical sites of the human brain with data on genes that are active at each site. The institute, which was founded in 2003 and is partially funded by Microsoft ($MSFT) co-founder Paul G. Allen, first released data from the project in October 2010. And about 4,000 researchers per month are accessing the vast amounts of data from the online resource, which became fully available with data from two adult human brains in March.
In a way, the atlas is a foe to brain disorders and an ally to scientists that are researching the diseases--which include Alzheimer's disease, depression and Parkinson's disease, among many others. Knowing which specific genes are active in the brain and where certain genes are expressed, drug developers might be able to better understand where drugs could have an intended effect or where they could cause harm. This might help reduce the high rate of drug trial failures involving patients with CNS diseases.
- access the human brain atlas here