Spinal Cord Genome

The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is the world’s first genome-wide map of the mouse spinal cord. The result of an innovative collaboration between public, private, and foundation donors, the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas offers a ray of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for people with spinal cord injury, or spinal cord related disease, and their families. It also provides a powerful new tool for researchers interested in developing new treatments for spinal cord injury, or diseases and disorders associated with the spinal cord. Users from universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies, and government research organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health, are expected to utilize the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas; however, online access is free to all.

The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas was unveiled at a media event on July 17, 2008, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Speakers at the event included U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington), Allan Jones, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Lucie Brujin, Ph.D., Director and Vice president of the ALS Association, Maurice L. Jordan, Deputy Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Jane Roskams, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Department of Zoology Brain Research Center and iCORD of the University of British Columbia.

The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is the result of a unique funding consortium that includes the Allen Research Institute, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Research Foundation, The ALS Association, Wyeth Research, PEMCO Insurance, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the International Spinal Research Trust. According to 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. . .”

Because mice and humans share 90 percent of genes, the mouse has long been a model for studying human genetic patterns. The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is expected to enhance the efforts of scientists and physicians seeking better treatment for spinal cord injury and disease. Initial data for the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas includes approximately 2,000 genes. The project will reach completion in early 2009, and will feature approximately 20,000 genes, spanning the full length of the spinal cord, and will include anatomical reference sections.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science was launched in 2003 with a seed contribution from Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen. The Allen Institute is an independent, non-for-profit medical research organization whose mission includes the application of cutting-edge technology to basic brain research. The institute provides full access to its findings, in the hope of advancing new understanding of brain and spinal disorders. The Allen Institute continues to seek funding from federal, state, and private sources. More information about the Allen Institute can be found at http://alleninstitute.org/. To view the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas, go to http://mousespinal.brain-map.org/.