Craig Venter has made a bacterium from an entirely synthesized genome (link is nice summary in WSJ). Here’s the paper in Science. Now, that that’s taken care of… who will be the first to design a “synthetic biological neural circuit”?
Traditionally, the study of the brain was organized somewhat like an archipelago. Neuroscientists would inhabit their own island or peninsula of the brain, and see little reason to venture elsewhere.
Molecular neuroscientists, who study how DNA and RNA function in the brain, didn’t share their work with cognitive specialists who study how psychological and cognitive functions are produced by the brain, for example.
But there has been an awakening to the idea that brains of humans and mammals should be studied like the complex, and interrelated systems that they are. Neuroscientists realized that they had to start collaborating across disciplines and sharing their data if they wanted to make advances in their own field.
Ellisman and his UCSD colleagues have devised a solution: crowdsource a brain. And this week they unveiled their years-long project — the Whole Brain Catalog — at the annual convention of the Society for Neuroscience, the largest gathering of brain experts in the world.
The journal, Frontiers in Neuroscience, edited by Idan Segev, has made it Volume 3, issue 1. Launching last year at the Society for Neuroscience conference, its probably the newest Neuroscience-related journal.
I’m a fan of it because it is an open-access journal featuring a “tiered system” and more. From their website:
The Frontiers Journal Series is not just another journal. It is a new approach to scientific publishing. As service to scientists, it is driven by researchers for researchers but it also serves the interests of the general public. Frontiers disseminates research in a tiered system that begins with original articles submitted to Specialty Journals. It evaluates research truly democratically and objectively based on the reading activity of the scientific communities and the public. And it drives the most outstanding and relevant research up to the next tier journals, the Field Journals.
Here’s a neat new website. It’s a repository of quantitative information on biological things (eg. organisms, biomolecules, etc.) Some stuff I found while glancing through:
Number of mRNA/cell in E. coli: 138
Volume occupied by all RNA in E. coli: 6%
Average gene length in mammals: 16.6kb
Average gene length in nematode C. elegans: 4 kb
Mutation rate per genome per replication in humans: 0.16 mutation/genome/replication
Average time between blinks in humans: 2.8 sec
Amount of photons necessary to excite a cone in humans: 100
Citations are included for most numbers too. The database seems a little sparse on neuroscience topics, so go over and contribute some numbers!