The Allen Institute for Brain Science’s online brain resource has recently been updated, and now includes data on Aging, Dementia, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The online brain resource, available in collaboration with UW Medicine researchers at the University of Washington, and Group Health, is reportedly the first of its kind to collect and share a wide variety of data modalities on a large sample of aged brains, complete with mental health histories and clinical diagnoses, according to a media release from Allen Institute for Brain Science.

“The power of this resource is its ability to look across such a large number of brains, as well as a large number of data types,” says Ed Lein, PhD, investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, in the release. “The resource combines traditional neuropathology with modern ‘omics’ approaches to enable researchers to understand the process of aging, look for molecular signatures of disease and identify hallmarks of brain injury.”

The study samples come from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, a longitudinal research effort led by Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, and Paul K. Crane, MD, MPH, of the Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington to collect data on thousands of aging adults, including detailed information on their health histories and cognitive abilities. UW Medicine led efforts to collect post-mortem samples from 107 brains aged 79 to 102, with tissue collected from the parietal cortex, temporal cortex, hippocampus and cortical white matter, the release explains.

“This collaborative research project aims to answer one of the most perplexing problems in clinical neuroscience,” says Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, FACS, UW Chair and professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, in the release.

“If a person suffers a traumatic brain injury during his or her lifetime, what is the risk of developing dementia? We simply don’t know the answer at this time, but some of the answers might be found in this comprehensive dataset by people asking the right kind of questions. This issue is important because of the inherent risk for everyone who plays sports, exercises, or in general, participates in the activities of daily life,” he continues.

Available on the Allen Institute online resource are quantitative image data to show the disease state of each sample, protein data related to those disease states, gene expression data, and de-identified clinical data for each case. Because the data is so complex, a series of animated “snapshots” gives users a dynamic sampling of the ways they can interrogate the data.

In compiling the data, the researchers focused on examining the impact of mild to moderate TBI on the aged brain, comparing samples from patients with self-reported loss of consciousness incidents against matched controls, per the release.

“Interestingly, while we see many other trends in these data, we did not uncover a distinctive genetic signature or pathologic biomarker in patients with TBI and loss of consciousness in this population study,” according to Lein.

“This new resource is an exciting addition to our suite of open science resources,” says Christof Koch, PhD, president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, in the release. “Researchers around the globe will be able to mine the data and explore many facets of the aged brain, which we hope will accelerate discoveries about health and disease in aging.”

A $2.37 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to the University of Washington funded the research to create the online resource, according to the release.

[Source(s): Allen Institute for Brain Science, PR Newswire]