By Rachel Tompa, Ph.D. / Allen Institute Rebecca Hodge, Ph.D., a scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, holds a frozen slice of a postmortem human brain donated to research. A new effort led by the Allen Institute aims to map the entire human brain at single-cell resolution. Photo by Erik Dinnel / Allen Institute
Scientists at the Allen Institute are launching the brain equivalent of the Human Genome Project, leading a new global collaboration to map the approximately 200 billion cells in the human brain by their type and function.
The collaboration is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative as part of The BRAIN Initiative® Cell Atlas Network, or BICAN, and will also build detailed atlases of macaque and marmoset brains. Led by Ed Lein, Ph.D., Senior Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a division of the Allen Institute, and Hongkui Zeng, Ph.D., Executive Vice President and Director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the human and primate atlas grant project also includes sub-projects led by researchers from 17 other institutions in the U.S., Europe and Japan.
“We are aiming to create something transformative for the field that can only be done collaboratively, by bringing in an all-star cast of experts from a variety of disciplines,” Lein said. “This is critical work: We need to understand the human brain better if we hope to treat diseases of the brain, and specifically we need a better understanding of brain function and structure. The cell atlases we’re building with the support of the BRAIN Initiative promise to lead to a more rapid understanding of the basis of many brain diseases.”