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New Institute to Create Gene Atlas of the Brain
By Nancy Touchette

The Allen Brain Atlas will compare the activity of genes throughout the mouse brain.

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen has donated $100 million to set up the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington. The purpose of the nonprofit institute will be to understand how the genome impacts brain development, behavior, and disease.

The institute’s first project, called the Allen Brain Atlas, will be to map the activity of genes in the mouse brain. Because the mouse genome is so similar to the human genome, the project’s organizers hope this will help them begin to figure out how a genome containing some 30,000 genes can build and regulate an organ as complex as the human brain.

The project will combine developments in genomics, proteomics, and neuroimaging technology to determine which genes are active in various regions of the brain during brain development and during processes such as learning, memory, cognition, and emotion. The findings will be made publicly available to researchers worldwide.

The project will be directed by Mark Boguski, formerly of Rosetta Inpharmatics, Inc., in Kirkland, Washington, and an original member of the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland.

Initially, the researchers will use thin sections of mouse tissue and probe them with DNA sequences to identify genes that are active in various brain regions. The researchers hope to map the activity of 20,000 mouse genes by 2006.


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