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Unlocking the secrets of the brain

Unlocking the secrets of the brain

Scientists in America have more than doubled the number of known regions in the brain’s outer mantle, known as the cortex.

The findings could help add to the understanding of how the regions evolved and how they contribute to health and disease. The new map, based on research funded by the National Institutes of Health Human Connectome Project (HCP), divides the left and right cerebral hemisphere into 180 different areas. This can enable scientists to understand differences in the brains of patients with diseases such autism, schizophrenia, compared to healthy subjects.

The team used MRI imaging to measure connectivity, topography, architecture and activity in the brains of 210 healthy male and female participants, and confirmed the findings in another independent group of 210 people. They took MRIs of people both engaged in a task, such as listening to a story, and in a resting state. Nighty-seven new cortex areas were identified, and an additional 83 previously known areas were confirmed.

Some areas found were located or oriented differently in a small number of participants, but the software algorithms were still able to map them correctly, providing a ‘fingerprint’ of each area. Lead study author Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis said: “The ability to discriminate individual differences in the location, size and topology of cortical areas from differences in their activity or connectivity should facilitate understanding of how each property is related to behavior and genetic underpinnings.”

The Human Connectome Project is a five year, large-scale attempt led by David Van Essen, Ph.D., that aims to usher in new information about the human brain by creating a map of neural connectivity to be shared with neuroscientists. The project used a specialized MRI machine to map the brains of 1,200 young adults.

Computational centre launched

Brown University, in Rhode Island in America, has launched a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Computational Biology of Human Disease to expand its research using computer analyses to fight disease. A new five-year $11.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health means that Brown University can expand its research in computational biology. The work will support five early career faculty members as they tackle the genomics underlying diseases such cancer, preeclampsia and severe lung infections.

Agreement is signed

Swedish company Sprint Bioscience has signed an agreement with the Center for Hematology and Regenerative Medicine (HERM) at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm to evaluate Sprint Bioscience drug candidates for the treatment of acute myeloid leukaemia, one of the most common forms of blood cancer. The partnership enables the identification of patients who may benefit from a future drug and the work will be conducted on HERM’s and Sprint Biosciences’ respective research laboratories at Novum in Huddinge, Sweden.

Acquisition announced

Australian company Sasmar Pharmaceuticals has acquired Aquatrove Biosciences, an American biotechnology company focused on discovery, research and development in human reproductive health and fertility. Sasmar’s President and CEO John-Michael Mancini said “The acquisition captures the capability and know-how built up over many years by the specialised team at Aquatrove and facilitates the realisation of our plans for growth.”

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