Researchers Develop Breakthrough Method for Mapping Brain Epigenomes

Breakthrough Method for Mapping Brain Epigenomes | The Lifesciences Magazine


Researchers at the College of Engineering have made significant strides in brain research by developing a cost-effective method for spatially characterizing and mapping brain epigenomes. This groundbreaking technique, led by Chang Lu, the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering, aims to enhance understanding of brain biology at the molecular level. Published in the journal Cell Reports Methods, the study represents a collaborative effort across multiple departments within the College of Engineering, including the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Computer Science.

Innovative Brain Mapping Technique

Traditionally, brain mapping has involved profiling single cells one by one, a costly and labor-intensive process. However, Lu and his team have introduced a more efficient approach known as epigenomic tomography. This method entails creating detailed maps of the epigenome – the genome-scale profile of epigenetic changes – across large brain areas and volumes. By utilizing this technique, researchers can gain insights into how mapping brain epigenomes are altered in response to activity changes or specific conditions such as seizures, epilepsy, addiction, or other mental diseases. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, the research team was able to create maps that distinguish between normal brain activity and activity during a seizure, providing valuable insights into brain disorders.

Implications for Brain Health and Drug Development

The implications of this research extend beyond basic neuroscience, offering potential applications in drug development for neurological disorders. By understanding the molecular processes underlying brain disorders, researchers hope to develop more targeted and effective treatments. Funding for the study was provided by various institutes, including the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Lu emphasizes the importance of this research for individuals suffering from depression, addiction, and other brain disorders, highlighting the potential impact on a significant portion of the population.

In conclusion, the development of this innovative technique ‘mapping brain epigenomes’ represents a significant advancement in the field of neuroscience. By providing a comprehensive understanding of brain epigenomics, researchers can pave the way for more effective treatments and interventions for brain disorders. Collaboration across disciplines and institutions has been instrumental in driving this research forward, underscoring the importance of interdisciplinary approaches in tackling complex scientific challenges.

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