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Website of the Week — Allen Brain Atlas


Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.

Today, we feature a brand-new site that provides new insight into how the brain works. Our Website of the Week is the Allen Brain Atlas at brainatlas.org.

JONES: "So what is the Allen Brain Atlas? If the Human Genome Project described the what — What is the genome? What are the genes there? — the Allen Brain Atlas is the first project that's addressing the question of the where. Where in this complex organ called the brain are all 21,000 of these genes turned on."

That's Dr. Allan Jones, chief scientific officer of the brain atlas project. It's actually an online database, not of the human brain, but of the mouse brain, which is simpler but still has a lot in common with ours. The brain atlas was financed by Paul Allen — similar name but no relation, of course, to Dr. Allan Jones. Paul Allen was, along with Bill Gates, a founder of Microsoft, and now, he's putting some of his money into medical research.

ALLEN: "We put together a team, I think it's about 80 people today, and in less than four years, with a lot of hard work, we've put up online this thorough, deep, accurate, and really easy to use graphic database of the genes of the mouse brain."

TEXT: The aim of the brain atlas is to show the link between specific genes with particular locations and functions in the brain. Allen says that the online brain atlas makes it possible for scientists everywhere to share this fundamental information about how the brain itself and the instructions coded into the genes relate to each other.

ALLEN: "Scientists from China to Scandinavia, anywhere in Europe, anywhere in the world can get online and in minutes be looking at correlations between genes or genes of particular interest — just doing this database we've seen fine structure in the mouse brain that I don't think anyone had ever seen before. So it's really exciting to have that effort complete today."

TEXT: Unless you're a biomedical researcher, the Allen Brain Atlas of the mouse brain is probably not something you would use. But since humans share more than 90 percent of their genes with mice, this website could help researchers increase their understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer's and epilepsy, which could lead to improved treatments for you or a loved one. See for yourself at brainatlas.org, or get the link from our site VOANews.com.

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