World’s First Genome-Wide Spinal Cord Atlas Unveiled

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The ALS Association has joined a funding consortium of non-profit and private organizations to fund the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, which was unveiled as the world’s first genome-wide map of the mouse spinal cord, key to the study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other diseases, disorders and traumatic injuries of the spinal cord.

Created by the Seattle, Wash.-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, the atlas enables researchers to access the free online data to advance their research surrounding these conditions.

“The atlas enables scientists to determine the location of genes and their expression patterns at the cellular level in the spinal cord,” said Lucie Bruijn, Ph.D., science director and vice president of The Association. “This will provide an important reference when trying to understand gene changes and how these are linked to disease in mouse models of ALS.”

From Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) to Spinal Muscular Atrophy, spinal cord related diseases and disorders affect people of all ages. As many as 30,000 Americans, including military veterans, suffer from ALS at any given time; and multiple sclerosis affects 2.5 million people worldwide, to name a few. Nearly one-quarter of a million Americans - including several thousand troops who have served in Iraq—have suffered or suffer from a spinal cord injury.

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The Institute’s unique funding model, designed to transform public, private and foundation funds into breakthrough scientific discoveries, supported the Spinal Cord Atlas’ dedicated consortium of public and private entities - including The Association, PVA Research Foundation, Wyeth Research, PEMCO Insurance, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, International Spinal Research Trust and philanthropist and Institute founder Paul G. Allen, as well as numerous anonymous donors.

“We were so thrilled to work with such a diverse array of funders with a shared goal of supporting this important project - which the Institute would never have completed without their support,” said Elaine Jones, chief operating officer at the Allen Institute. “The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas serves as a successful example of how major scientific projects can be funded, and we are eternally grateful to our partners.”

The atlas will be completed in a 12-month time frame. While inaugural data - approximately 2,000 genes - from the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is now available (http://mousespinal.brain-map.org), the Institute will continue to follow its founding mission and upload additional information until the projected completion by the end of 2008. It is estimated that hundreds of users from universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies and government organizations will use the atlas.

When completed, the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas will detail approximately 20,000 genes including data from youth and adult developmental stages. It will also feature data across the full length of the spinal cord as well as anatomical reference sections.

The ALS Association is the only not-for-profit voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS through research, patient care, advocacy and public education. The mission of The Association is to lead the fight to cure and treat ALS through global, cutting-edge research, and to empower people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support. For more information, please visit www.alsa.org.

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