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UM School of Medicine Scientists Create First Extensive Brain Cell Data Repository

January 06, 2023 | Heide Aungst

NeMO Archive Provides User-Friendly Research Tool to Help Neuroscientists Understand How the Brain Works

Seth Ament, PhDNeuroscience researchers now have access to 50 million brain cells to better understand how the brain develops and functions or changes with disease or trauma.  In November, scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UMSOM) Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) unveiled a “one-stop shop” for brain cell data called the Neuroscience Multi-Omic Archive (NeMO Archive). This archive is now available to neuroscience researchers to transform their understanding of the complex workings of the brain.

IGS researchers published a technical description, including accessible links to the new resource, in the November issue of Nucleic Acids Research. The expectation is that these cell-type atlases will have a transformative impact on neuroscience research more broadly, including for studies that focus on how each cell type changes in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, or substance abuse disorders.

“The NeMO Archive is the most comprehensive repository for genomic data on cellular diversity in the human and mouse brain,” said Seth Ament, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UMSOM, IGS scientist, and a lead author on the paper. “Once our consortium finishes analyzing the data, I believe we will have a more rigorous understanding of the cell types of the brain than any previous study or resource,” he said.

The NeMO Archive is a curated genomic data repository funded by the National Institutes of Health Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which is housed at IGS. So far, most data in the NeMO Archive has come from a consortium primarily focused on mapping cell types in the mouse brain. As the archive continues to develop, additional data will come from a new consortium that is focusing on the human brain.

The ultimate goal is to create comprehensive maps for the diversity of cells in the mammalian brain, providing precise descriptions for thousands of distinct cell types in more than 100 brain regions.

Owen White, PhDThe role of the NeMO Archive is to assemble all of this data into a centralized resource that is easy for the neuroscience community to find and use. It currently contains transcriptomic, epigenomic, and spatial transcriptomic data from more than 50 million brain cells.

“The data housed in the NeMO Archive is easily accessible to researchers at nemoarchive.org,” said Owen White, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UMSOM, Associate Director of IGS, and a lead author on the paper. , and. “Our team developed several user-friendly interface tools to make its use simple, including a searchable web portal, a cloud-computing interface for large-scale data processing, and the ability to download data from the cloud to a local visualization and analysis platform called NeMO Analytics available at nemoanalytics.org,” he said.

Other IGS faculty who were co-authors on the study include Michelle Giglio, PhD, Associate Professor, Medicine, UMSOM; Associate Director of Analysis, IGS; Ronna Hertzano, MD, PhD, Professor, Otorhinolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, UMSOM; Affiliate Faculty, IGS; and Anup A. Mahurkar, MIM, Director of Software Engineering and Information Technology, IGS.

Mark T. Gladwin, MD“We know the brain has billions of neurons connected by trillions of synapses, but precise definitions for all the types and subtypes of these have been elusive to scientists,” said Mark Gladwin, MD, Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “By better understanding specific cells within the brain, biologists will be able to analyze particular genes and how they influence the function of the brain, such as the known genes for Alzheimer’s or autism.”

The work for the NeMO Archive is supported by an original $6.4 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health covering 2017 to 2022 and has recently been renewed with an additional $8.5 million to extend the project through 2027. The grant was funded by the National Institutes of Health: R24 MH114788; R24 MH114815; UM1 DA052244; R01 DC019370.

No conflicts of interest declared.

In addition to the NeMO Archive, UMSOM has established a new neuroscience institute that will accelerate translational research of the brain by facilitating interaction between basic and clinical scientists and enhancing collaborative research across the UMSOM and University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) campus. The institute, called the University of Maryland-Medicine Institute for Neuroscience Discovery (UM-MIND), was launched late last year.

About the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Now in its third century, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 46 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs, and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished two-time winner of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research.  With an operating budget of more than $1.3 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically based care for nearly 2 million patients each year. The School of Medicine has nearly $600 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding.  As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total population of nearly 9,000 faculty and staff, including 2,500 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. The combined School of Medicine and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of over $6 billion and an economic impact of nearly $20 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine, which ranks as the 8th highest among public medical schools in research productivity (according to the Association of American Medical Colleges profile) is an innovator in translational medicine, with 606 active patents and 52 start-up companies.  In the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of the Best Medical Schools, published in 2021, the UM School of Medicine is ranked #9 among the 92 public medical schools in the U.S., and in the top 15 percent (#27) of all 192 public and private U.S. medical schools.  The School of Medicine works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu

About the Institute for Genome Sciences

The Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has revolutionized genomic discoveries in medicine, agriculture, environmental science, and biodefense since its founding in 2007. IGS investigators research areas of genomics and the microbiome to better understand health and disease, including treatments, cures, and prevention. IGS investigators also lead the development of the new field of microbial forensics. IGS is a leading center for major biological initiatives currently underway including the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and the NIAID-sponsored Genomic Sequencing Center for Infectious Diseases (GSCID). Follow us on Twitter @GenomeScience.

Contact

Heide Aungst
HAungst@som.umaryland.edu
216-970-5773 (cell)

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