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Europeans Moving Closer to a Cure for Alzheimer’s

For 10 years, researchers from Canada and Europe have been involved in the Billion Euro Human Brain Project.

What is this project about? It’s about mapping the human brain. To know where Omaha is or New York, we use maps. To find out where Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s might be, we needed a map.

The map that these researchers created would be like a map of the United States without labels for cities or highways. We would know there were cities, towns, highways, roads — but we wouldn’t know what any of these cities did, or where the roads went. It’s a first step.

The researchers, cut the brain into 20 micrometer slices, mounted them on glass slides, stained them, then scanned them into a computer. The result will be a 3-d model of the brain which will show not only the individual cells, but the connections between them as well.

The next step will be to discover exactly what these cells do and what the connections between them mean.

Researchers have already discovered the locations of the cells that cause schizophrenia and Parkinson’s in the human brain.

This research is a huge step forward not only for the health of populations, but for containing health care costs as well. If we can find the cells that cause Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, we can develop the tools to cure it.

The Human Brain Project will be making this data available for free to researchers around the world through a web portal called CBRAIN.

It’s an amazing new world.

About Georgeana Mimms

Georgeana Mimms was a researcher at the Social Policy Lab of the Andrus Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, Deputy Director of the Asociation Pro Personas Mayores and a Special Consultant to the Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging.