Instrumental Access 2019:
Universidade Federal Rio Grande do Norte
Instituto do Cérebro / Brain Institute
In Brazil, establishing a core facility for production and use of viral vectors
Visiting graduate student (from Mexico) at work at the Brain Institute, UFRN
PhD student calibrating equipment for hearing experiments
Meet our Awardee
The Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) is a federal university located at the northeastern tip of Brazil. Although famous for its tropical beaches and tourist attractions, Rio Grande do Norte is among Brazil's poorest states.
The Instituto do Cérebro (Brain Institute) at UFRN was founded in 2010 as a research and educational center for the neurosciences.
Its primary mission is to develop cutting edge neuroscience research, improve working conditions for Brazilian and foreign researchers trained abroad, and provide scientific training at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Current research priorities at the Brain Institute include: epilepsy; depression; Alzheimer’s; Zika and other infectious diseases that impact brain development; schizophrenia; animal models for speech acquisition, language disorders, hearing impairments and tinnitus; and basic research around neural development, sensory physiology, oscillatory brain rhythms, memory formation, and sleep.
For students locally, the donation will mean having access to an internationally-competitive education at a public university in the Northeast of Brazil, instead of hoping for the first opportunity to leave the country for better working and scientific training conditions."
Establishing A Viral Vector Core in Brazil: Dr. Tarciso Andre Ferreira Velho
Tarciso Andre Ferreira Velho, PhD, an assistant professor at the Brain Institute, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), is seeking answers to one of neurobiology's mysteries: how do genetics impact how we learn to speak?
Working at the cutting edge of genetics, Dr. Velho's goal is to create an animal model that can be used to study language impairment in humans.
The species that he's chosen to work with is the zebra finch, a songbird that learns to vocalize through imitation, just as humans do.
"The ability to routinely perform genetic manipulations in songbirds will open unparalleled opportunities to study the relationship between genes and brain function in an animal species with a robust behavioral repertoire," says Dr. Velho. "Transgenic songbirds will allow us to generate more accurate animal models to study communication disorders."
Dr. Velho and his collaborators also anticipate that the zebra finch model will be useful as a model for autism, and to explore questions about the neurobiology of creativity.
Equipment from Instrumental Access will help Dr. Velho to establish a laboratory at UFRN to produce viral vectors, a critical tool for manipulating the genetic code of cell lines or whole animals.
Viral vectors are difficult to acquire in Brazil, as there are no commercial suppliers and reagents are challenging to import. Dr. Velho's lab previously depended on a collaborator at California Institute of Technology to supply them.
According to Dr. Velho, "the equipment from Seeding Labs will allow us to work independently, reduce the amount of travelling and costs, provide hands-on training for students, and most importantly, make these tools available to labs that otherwise will never gain access to them."
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About Instrumental Access
To begin, we identify a pipeline of scientific talent. Then we rigorously screen universities and select those with the most potential to advance education and research through Instrumental Access.