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NIMH to Fund New Browser for Brain Atlas RNA-Seq Data

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Mental Health plans to fund development of a browser that will make RNA sequence data from a large-scale brain resource more useful for neuroscience researchers.

NIMH said it will award up to $750,000 in 2015 to fund the project, which will create a "sophisticated, user-friendly" technology that will provide access to RNA-seq data from the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain project through the Allen Institute for Brain Sciences.

The BrainSpan, which is being developed by a multi-institute consortium, is a resource for studying transcriptional mechanisms involved in human brain development and disorders.

Currently, it includes a survey of gene expression in 16 specific brain regions, cellular resolution in situ hybridization image data detailing gene expression in the developing and adult brain, and neuroimaging and histological reference atlases that provide a neurodevelopmental and anatomical context for interpreting gene expression data.

The core aims of the RNA-seq browser are to provide a resource that will enable investigators to discover how specific risk genes for brain disorders affect development, and which risk gene variants influence RNA expression during development.

NIMH said a transcriptional atlas of the developing human brain has already been completed that "provides a wealth of data that may help shed light on these complicated disorders."

These and other data are already available to the research community through BrainSpan, but NIMH wants a sophisticated RNA-seq browser to make it more user-friendly for a large neuroscience community. A fully interactive browser that links these diverse data sets and allows investigators to visualize and mine sequence level data would be likely to increase the number of investigators who use the atlas and lead to new research into brain disorders, NIMH said.