Ed Lein of the Allen Institute for Brain Science speaks on stage

Courtesy: AWS

Just as the periodic table underpins chemistry and the Human Genome Project revolutionized modern genetics, researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science teamed up with Amazon Web Services to create what could become a “transformative” new resource for the field of neuroscience.

AWS on Wednesday he announced its technology will support the Allen Institute in creating a map of the human brain, called the Brain Knowledge Platform. This platform, the first of its kind, is designed to be a complete reference of individual cells in the brain, and will eventually serve as the largest open source database of brain cells in the world.

The Allen Institute is using single-cell genomics technology to build the new platform. Scientists measure the genes used by individual brain cells to create a “cellular fingerprint,” and cells with similar fingerprints will be grouped into “cell types,” creating a high-resolution map of the entire brain.

Once the link is complete, scientists should better understand the connections between genetics and various cognitive functions. Researchers believe the platform could provide insights into why diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s occur.

“This is really like the periodic table for the brain,” said Dr. Ed Lein, a senior researcher at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, during a presentation about the platform in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. when I had access to them.”

The Allen Institute is a non-profit research institute based in Seattle. It consists of several different institutes, including one focused on neuroscience, and is perhaps best known for producing a number of different large-scale data resources.

But while the Allen Institute is no stranger to data, there are hundreds of billions of cells in the brain – so creating a reference like the Brain Knowledge Platform means researchers will have to deal with a huge amount of data.

“We’re just running into these huge, huge data size problems,” Lein said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “The scope of the data is getting bigger and bigger.”

As such, the Allen Institute uses cloud computing and AWS machine learning to standardize and consolidate complex brain data in one place.

When conducting research involving genetics and imaging, scientists often work with petabytes and even exabytes of data. Dr. Rowland Illing, director of international public sector health at AWS, told the briefing that consuming 40 petabytes of data would require someone to watch 4K video 24/7 for 100 years.

The amount of data available to researchers is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, but Lein said there is also a lot of existing neuroscience brain data. The problem, he says, is that much of it is unorganized and decentralized, making it difficult for researchers to access.

The Allen Institute plans to use AWS technology to successfully interpret this disparate data, even when stored in different formats and locations, which Lein says will hopefully further democratize access to knowledge and bring together parts of the neuroscience community.

“While it’s really early stages right now, the goal of the Brain Knowledge Platform is to transform this fragmented landscape of neuroscience information into a unified ecosystem,” he said.

The Allen Institute will work to build the Brain Knowledge Platform over the next five years. Lein said it’s still in the early stages, but the potential for the technology is huge.

“If we can do that, imagine the impact on the field,” he said. “We can bring together different parts of the field that can’t talk to each other at the moment. We can accelerate our understanding of brain function, as well as new approaches to treating disease.”

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