Brain cell study at USC gets $19 million research grant

The USC Mark and Mary Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC has received a $19 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help create a classification system for cells in the brain. Led by Hong-Wei Dong, associate professor of neurology, the team will join the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network consortium, a five-year multisite collaboration funded by the BRAIN Initiative.

Launched in 2013 by former President Barack Obama, the BRAIN Initiative is a public-private partnership led by the National Institutes of Health that unites federal agencies with foundations, universities and industry groups to develop and apply innovative technologies to revolutionize the study of the human brain.

In the present project involving mice, researchers will examine the organ in finer detail than ever before — combining anatomical, physiological and genetic approaches to paint a comprehensive picture of different cell types. It’s an extensive classification and mapping effort comparable in scale to the human genome project.

“When scientists first began studying the brain, we divided it into lobes,” Dong said. “Then we began classifying it into progressively smaller regions. Now we’re looking at groups of cell types and even individual cells.”

Joining the BRAIN Initiative, one of NIH’s most prestigious programs, means that Keck School of Medicine researchers will have the chance to impact diverse research activities and serve as a catalyst to other projects across the field of biomedicine.

“We’re creating a classification system for a finer level of detail than we’ve ever tackled before,” said Arthur Toga, director of the institute. “In the process, we’re developing datasets and tools essential to illuminating the structure and function of the brain.”

For the full news article by USC’s HSC News, visit:

–published November 13, 2017