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The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas Unveiled

by D. Luyo

AMWA MAC president Debbie Luyo represented AMWA at the unveiling of the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas on July 17, 2008, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. 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, and an invaluable new tool for researchers. The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is the world's first genome-wide map of the mouse spinal cord.

Free access is now available online, allowing researchers the opportunity to advance research on spinal cord injury and disease. The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas is a 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, and emcee for the media event "The Allen Spinal Cord Atlas serves as a successful example of how major scientific projects can be funded. . ."

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.

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 in the discovery of new treatments for spinal cord injury, diseases, and disorders. Inaugural 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. Users from universities, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies, and government research organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health, are expected to access the Allen Spinal Cord Atlas.

The Allen Institute for Brain Science is an independent, non-for-profit medical research organization dedicated to applying cutting edge technology to basic brain research, and to providing full access to its findings, in the hope of advancing new understanding of brain and spinal disorders. The Allen Institute was launched in 2003 with a seed contribution from Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen. The Institute continues to seek funding from federal, state, and private sources.