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The goal is to understand how genes are involved in brain function in health and disease.
Researchers are studying genes in mice and humans to discover how mutations in genes can affect normal brain function and contribute to disease.
Eight applications were received from selected faculty. Four projects were funded.
The behavioral testing program
Genetic modifications can only be evaluated to the extent that the behaviors in mice can be interpreted as the effects of specific brain processes.
Michela Gallagher and Mikhail V. Pletnikov; Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
The high throughput screening center for neurogenetics
This institutional core facility that uses robotic equipment and personnel to perform high throughput screens with small molecules such as drugs and chemicals. This facility will extend these capabilities to testing genes (cDNA’s) and gene blockers (shRNA’s) in the same high throughput fashion. These capabilities will allow Johns Hopkins University neuroscience investigators to conduct tests in a dish, allowing them to rapidly identify the roles of specific genes in brain cells.
Min Li and Seth Blackshaw; Department of Neuroscience
Neurogenetics of wiring and repair project
The Neurogenetics of Wiring and Repair project is exploring the role of genes in brain development that has the potential to be transformational. The study of genetic mutations has driven many major discoveries in neuroscience, but the capacity to assess the effect of mutations in an unbiased way – across the entire genome – has largely been restricted to studies in worms and other invertebrates. Studies in mice have largely used chemicals to induce random mutations in the genetic code. Using innovative techniques this program will insert tagged gene modifiers, so that large numbers of “tagged” mutations will be present in each mouse pup, greatly facilitating the assessment of the consequences of these mutations in nervous system development and function. This high-risk technique has the potential to identify many new genes that control specific aspects of brain development, function, and disease. The mouse lines developed in this Center will be available to all Johns Hopkins neuroscientists.
David Ginty and Alex Kolodkin; Department of Neuroscience
The Neuro-Epigenetics Center
Researchers in neurogenetics are just beginning to see the importance of little-studied processes such as methylation – the addition of methyl groups to DNA, as a way of silencing specific genes. The goal of neurogenetics is to understand which genes are silenced and what the consequences are of silencing them. Dr. Feinberg has developed state-of-the-art microarray chips to detect methylation of genes and we anticipate that many groups will want to utilize his expertise and Center. The BSI has supported the expansion of this novel epigenetic resource to make it available to Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists. To help set priorities for the use of the Epigenetics Center, the Scientific Review Panel will review and provide small grant support for studies to be conducted. Additionally, The School of Medicine is devoting new space to this Center.
Andrew Feinberg, James Potash, Sarven Sabunciyan and Robert Yolken; Departments of Molecular Biology, Genetics, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics