The Allen Institute Creates the First Open Database of Live Human Brain Cells

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has generated the first data from live human brain cells with the Allen Cell Types Database: a new (and publicly available) tool for anyone who wants to explore and understand the anatomy and electrical signals of living brain cells.

While in brain surgery for conditions like epilepsy or cancer, surgeons may need to remove small pieces of healthy brain tissue to reach the intended target. Normally, this tissue is considered medical waste and destroyed. The Allen Institute takes these tissues quickly to their labs instead. The scientists can then study the physical structure and signals of live human brain cells, as opposed to animal models or dead organs from cadavers. This information is added to the Allen Cell Types Database.

The Allen Institute’s first data release includes information from 300 living cortical neurons that were culled from 36 patients. The database already includes data from mouse brains, but now there are 3D reconstructions of shape or anatomy for these human cells, along with computer models simulating their electrical behavior.