What You Should Know:
- AWS and Allen Institute for Brain Science are collaborating on a five-year project to create the largest open source database of brain cell data in the world named the Brain Knowledge Platform (BKP).
- The strategic global collaboration for the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network (BICAN) with participation from 17 other institutions around the globe including MIT and Princeton will pinpoint precisely why diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s occur, to leading to advancements in the clinic.
- Allen Institute is evaluating generative AI services including Amazon Bedrock, to integrate foundation models into the platform. By incorporating generative AI, researchers can explore uncharted territories, simulate brain processes, and generate novel insights that may have remained undiscovered otherwise.
Brain Knowledge Platform
One part of the brain knowledge platform work, led by Ed Lein, a senior investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and a network of neuroscience researchers from 17 institutes across the world, will be to make a new map of the entire brain at cellular resolution. The other part of the effort, led by the Allen Institute’s head of data and technology, Shoaib Mufti, in collaboration with AWS, will be to use this brain map to create the largest open source database of brain cell data in the world. It will be the first of its kind to compile and standardize massive datasets on the structure and function of mammal brains.
The workhorse of the platform is single-cell genomics. Thanks to new technologies that measure the genes being used within individual brain cells, researchers can now better understand the brain’s cellular complexity and the genes that give cells their distinct functions. These highly detailed cell atlases will help researchers understand the origins of disease and, eventually, allow clinicians to pinpoint why diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s occur.
“Centuries ago, we had colorful but rather crude maps of what people thought the Earth’s surface looked like. Cartographers knew roughly where the continents and islands were, and what the major geographic and political subdivisions were, but they were not very accurate,” said David Van Essen, a professor of neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and an Allen Institute research partner. “Recently, there’s been an explosion of information and better technology with satellite images and vastly more accurate and user-friendly navigation tools. What we aspire to do for the human brain is to get better and better maps with greater and greater detail, which will become powerful navigational tools for brain disorders.”