Research Initiative 

First Of Its Kind 3D Human Spinal Cord Atlas

The Seattle Science Foundation has embarked on a bold 5-year, 15-million-dollar initiative to create a comprehensive 3-Dimensional Spinal Cord Atlas. This multi-tiered project will analyze the human spinal cord to a degree that has never been done before. The goal of this ambitious project is to provide the clinician and researcher with a GPS of the spinal cord that will allow for highly specific views of each layer of the spinal cord and its microcircuitry. With this in mind, the physician could imagine placing discreet electrodes into eloquent nuclei of the cord with a precision that would allow for stimulation of specific muscles. Such stimulation might afford a paralyzed patient the ability to move muscles below the level of their injury. Researchers would also have a better understanding of the spinal cord and use the data derived from this project to improve patient care as well as our understanding of the spinal cord.

Research Stages

Phase I

Duration 24 Months (In Progress)

Develop a comprehensive, open access, macro atlas of the anatomy of the normal spinal cord.  The entire spinal cord will be digitized using high resolution and depth of field techniques.  Combining focal stacking, image stitching, and 3D depth maps to expose incredible detail at the microscopic level.

Develop and establish an online platform that can be shared with colleagues, compared to other specimens, used in classroom curricula, analyzed, measured, and annotated online.

Phase II

Duration 24 Months

Analyze and map the microscopic anatomy of cells and tissues of the spinal cord using histological techniques of the normal spinal cord.  Spinal cords will be sectioned, stained, mounted onto slides for examination under a high-power microscope.  All slides will be imaged and cataloged. 

Develop a comprehensive, open access, virtual slide library that will be created using the data collected.  Data will be digitized using high resolution and depth of field techniques including focal stacking, imaging stitching, and 3D depth maps.

Phase III

Duration 12 Months

An online, open access, 3D/Virtual Atlas platform will be developed using all of the data collected during Phase I and II.

In the News