This map encompasses 3,000 types of brain cells, offering insights into their structure, location, and, in some cases, their functions.
The human brain is a complicated and fascinating organ. Humans, for decades, have tried to understand its functioning and the transformation it showcases when any disorder comes into play and how it copes with disruption. Scientists have made a huge leap in this pursuit by formulating an atlas that gives detailed maps of the various elements encapsulated in the brain, reports NPR. According to Science.org, the atlas covers 3,000 types of brain cells and offers a map of their location, structure and, in some cases, functions. atlas comprises 20 research papers published simultaneously in three journals- Science, Science Advances and Science Translational Medicine.
The objective is to understand how the brain develops in individuals and the changes it undergoes when afflicted by a disorder. It will aid the researchers in stopping these disorders from making space in individuals who are at risk for them. Humans undoubtedly are the most dominant creatures on the planet. It is not due to the courtesy of strength but due to the logic associated with the brain. Senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Ed Lein, one of the researchers involved in the project, feels that the atlas will be fruitful in understanding why humans are dominant in this aspect over other creatures on Earth. He said, "We really need this kind of information if we're going to understand what makes us unique as humans, or what makes us different as individuals, or how the brain develops." Lein adds, "You can use this map to understand what actually happens in disease and what kinds of cells might be vulnerable or affected," as reported by the outlet.
He said, "We really need this kind of information if we're going to understand what makes us unique as humans, or what makes us different as individuals, or how the brain develops." Lein adds, "You can use this map to understand what actually happens in disease and what kinds of cells might be vulnerable or affected," as reported by the outlet. The National Institutes of Health have largely financed the project atlas under its BRAIN initiative. The initiative was launched by Barrack Obama to find cures and treatments for neurological disorders. It was noted that in the case of disorders like Alzheimer's, autism, depression and schizophrenia, certain variations occurred in the DNA. Despite recording these changes, scientists have found difficulty in finding the way individual brain cells were impacted. The project atlas will serve as a dictionary for scientists to make connections between the genetic changes and their effect on certain brain cells.
Bing Ren, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, tried to give more clarity on the topic and said, "For example, we found that late-onset Alzheimer's [is] particularly associated with a type of cell we call microglia." Microglia are immune cells known to get activated in Alzheimer's patients. It has led scientists to conclude that this activation aids in the loss of neurons responsible for memory and thinking.
Ren has found similar patterns with a major depressive disorder and schizophrenia. In both cases, a certain set of neurons went through changes when the condition came into being in humans. Ren wants the atlas to serve as support to the scientists so that they can figure out the mysteries of these disorders and find a treatment. He shared, "I hope our work will allow scientists to develop new strategies for treating these disorders."
The massive effort of creating the atlas is still ongoing, but it is not the end of the road for these scientists. They also need to understand the methodology followed by neurons in connection to each other, how brain circuits function and how brain cells come together to create memories, solve problems and produce consciousness.