Life-long, minimally invasive, and multiplex transcriptional profiling of the cerebellum

Why do all our brains mature and age in different ways, leading to different cognitive and behavioral outcomes? Given how neurons, the building blocks of brains, are heavily determined by their RNA content, and the wellbeing of our neurons is a major contributor to our minds, in the end it is key to know what RNAs are present during which time periods as we and our neurons mature and age. Even in animal models, this is currently impossible, because all existing RNA measurement methods require sacrificing the animal. In contrast, we envision a novel method that “copies” the information from the RNAs made by the neurons to sensor RNAs we artificially introduce into live animals. Neurons constantly send out small lipid-wrapped packages containing some of their contents, so we will make sure that some of our sensor molecules piggyback on these packages into the blood. By simply drawing blood and quantifying the information copied there that originated in the brain, we will finally be able to read about the brain as it ages without prying it open. We plan to demonstrate our method using the cerebellum as an example, and then share the tool with other researchers.

Project Details

Funding Type:

Seed Grant

Award Year:


Lead Researcher(s):

Longzhi Tan (Co-PI)