Sunday, April 17, 2011

Scientists hopeful of disease breakthroughs with world's first computerised brain map

Scientists were today hopeful of a breakthrough in a range of conditions after they unveiled the world's first computerised brain map.

Researchers spent a staggering four years piecing together minute details from brain tissue including millions of genes.

The brains were chopped up into sections to extract the RNA and find the 25,000 genes present in the human genome.

Each detail was loaded into a computer to provide exact directions from oner point of the brain to another.

It is hoped that medics can use the map to understand how the brain works and aid new discoveries in disease and treatments.

The researchers said the map could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism and mental-health disorders.

Incredibly, the brain experts discovered that any two people are 94 per cent alike in terms other genes.

'Until now, a definitive map of the human brain at this level of detail simply hasn't existed,' Allan Jones from the Allen Institute for Brain Science told the Wall Street Journal.

'For the first time, we have generated a comprehensive map of the brain that includes the underlying biochemistry.'

Researches have for years struggled to link symptoms of the diseases they study to the biochemistry of genes that might be responsible for them.

They have therefore been unable to get  full picture of the brain in order to tackle debilitating diseases.

They picked two adult male brains and set about working on the information in the $50m project.

Scientists catalogued 1,000 'landmarks' in each of two brains then linked those tissues to thousands of genes they work in conjunction with to neural development and function.

By using the map it is possible to see how strongly or weakly different genes act on different parts of the brain.

'The Allen atlas tells you where a gene is turned on in the brain and that's why it is important,' said neurologist Jeffrey L. Noebels, who studies epilepsy at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Dr. Noebels said that knowing where genes are active was central to knowing how brain diseases work.

The project has al;ready been used by some 4,000 brain scientists who are using the map to probe brains.

Researchers now want to look into another eight brains by the end of the year in order to better understand the differences between people. They will also research the brain of women to see what differences are present.


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