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Growing our knowledge of cell types

October 26, 2017

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is making significant strides toward cataloging and understanding the fundamental building blocks of the brain. New data from the human brain in our open access resource, combined with significant funding from several outside sources, has made this month an exciting time for progress in uncovering the brain's cell types.

Human data in the Allen Cell Types Database

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has added the first data from human nerve cells to the Allen Cell Types Database: a publicly available tool for researchers to explore and understand the building blocks of the human brain.

This first release includes electrical properties from approximately 300 living cortical neurons of different types derived from 36 patients, with accompanying 3D reconstructions of their shape or anatomy for 100 cells, and computer models simulating the electrical behavior of these neurons.

The database will also contain gene expression profiles, based on measurements of all genes used by 16,000 individual cells, from three adult human brains. Data from these human cells provide an unparalleled window into the intricate components, circuitry and function of the human neocortex, including features that make our brains unique.

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NIH awards ~$100M to lead collaborations on cell types

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Allen Institute for Brain Science three five-year grants totaling nearly $100 million, to expand upon work in investigating cell types in the mouse and human brains: a crucial step toward understanding brain health and disease.

The grants are part of the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN), which aims to establish reference cell atlases of the brain by supporting collaborations that will create resources to be shared throughout the research community. Of the nine collaborative consortia established by these BICCN grants, three will be led by Allen Institute for Brain Science researchers.

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Chan Zuckerberg Initiative supports ongoing cell types leadership

Allen Institute researchers have also been awarded a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to lead a collaborative project to benchmark, evaluate and compare many technologies for measuring all genes expressed in the mouse and human neocortex. The project is part of the Human Cell Atlas: a global collaboration to map and characterize all cells in a healthy human body.

Led by Allen Institute for Brain Science, the endeavor will be a collaborative effort with 11 other institutions.

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