Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Science Sunday! I am running so late in posting this as I am just getting back from a weekend away, and I didn’t have this post written beforehand (grrr time management). So, today’s post is a bit rushed, but I still think is fun.

Today’s Science Sunday is going to discuss two areas of science that I’m very excited to watch the next decade or so. I feel as if there remains a lot to learn in these two fields and that these findings could revolutionize our understanding of human biology and medical care. These fields are: Human Neuroscience and Human Genetics.

Human Neuroscience

The human brain is a mysterious black box that despite hundreds of years of research (including some remarkable discoveries) we don’t know much about human neurological disorders and normal neural function. Autism, schizophrenia/bipolar disorder, depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, among scores of others affect millions with unknown causes and limited treatment options. There remains a load to learn on neurological function and how to treat these conditions.

The amount of research examining these disorders and their underlying neurological functions is increasing at a crazy rate. There are a vast number of public and private initiatives specifically aimed at human neuroscience. One of these is the BRAIN Initiative from NIH (http://braininitiative.nih.gov). The aim of the BRAIN Initiative is to develop new technologies including neuroimaging and lab-based to rapidly accelerate and enable new neurological research. Awaiting the findings of this investment in research is going to be fun and fascinating.

Human Genetics

Over the last two decades, the research community has poured endless hours and countless amount of resources into deciphering the human genome. The Human Genome Project (more information here), completed in 2003, sequenced the entire genome. However, the past decade has seen the field grapple with trying to figure out what these genomic elements do.

Recently, more initiatives and projects have been launched to figure out what each base pair does. These have focused on intersecting clinical, human-based projects (e.g., genomic and exome sequencing of large population cohorts as well as rare disease populations) with lab-based, basic science techniques (e.g., transcription factor binding profiles and stem cell modeling). Projects include the ENCODE Project (http://www.genome.gov/encode/), which is trying to map all of the functional elements of the genome and the newly announce Precision Medicine Initiative (http://www.nih.gov/precisionmedicine/), which will involve the genomic analysis of a large US cohort. I commented on the Precision Medicine Initiative in another post here. The ENCODE project has successfully revealed novel insights into the functional, regulatory nature of the genome. Seeing new results of ENCODE and the Precision Medicine Initiative (and how it is going to be planned and implemented) is going to be thrilling.

Thank you all for stopping by Science Sunday! What fields are you exciting to watch in the coming years? What are your thoughts on ENCODE, the BRAIN Initiative, and the Precision Medicine Initiative? Comment below or on twitter (@DrFsThoughts).

Hope you all have had a great weekend! And a fantastic start of the week!

-Dr. F

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