The SPARC DRC: Building a Resource for the Autonomic Nervous System Community

Mahyar Osanlouy, Anita Bandrowski, Bernard De Bono, David Brooks, Antonino M. Cassarà, Richard Christie, Nazanin Ebrahimi, Tom Gillespie, Jeffrey S. Grethe, Leonardo A. Guercio, Maci Heal, Mabelle Lin, Niels Kuster, Maryann E. Martone, Esra Neufeld, David Phillip Nickerson, Elias G. Soltani, Susan J. Tappan, Joost B. Wagenaar, Katie Zhuang, and Peter Hunter, Frontiers in Physiology 2021, Volume 12, 929, online 24 June 2021;

The Data and Resource Center (DRC) of the NIH-funded SPARC program is developing databases, connectivity maps, and simulation tools for the mammalian autonomic nervous system. The experimental data and mathematical models supplied to the DRC by the SPARC consortium are curated, annotated, and semantically linked via a single knowledge base. A data portal has been developed that allows discovery of data and models both via semantic search and via an interface that includes Google-Map-like 2D flat maps for displaying connectivity, and 3D anatomical organ scaffolds that provide a common coordinate framework for cross-species comparisons. We discuss examples that illustrate the data pipeline, which includes data upload, curation, segmentation (for image data), registration against the flat maps and scaffolds, and finally display via the web portal, including the link to freely available online computational facilities that will enable neuromodulation hypotheses to be investigated by the autonomic neuroscience community and device manufacturers.

The scientific and technical impact of the study can be summarized as:

  • The SPARC program contributes significantly to scientific knowledge and the understanding of the role of the peripheral nervous system to enable breakthroughs in bioelectronic medicine
  • A comprehensive and systematic approach that includes curation and knowledge management has been implemented, e.g., in the unique cloud-based, online-accessible, open, and extendable o2S2PARC platform spearheaded by IT’IS, to ensure that the established data and computational models developed are FAIR compliant, i.e., findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable
  • Examples of computational pipelines established by the SPARC DRC – ranging from the modeling of neural interfaces to the resulting impact on organ function, e.g., in the context of a treatment planning platform for spinal-cord stimulation to restore bladder control – are presented
  • The extension, deepening, and systematization of the concept of using functionalized anatomical models and multi-scale organ scaffolds as integration centers for measurement data and computational models is explained, e.g., with descriptions of multi-species computational 3D scaffolds that enable cross-species comparisons
  • The SPARC approach to the FAIR principles of open, collaborative, and sustainable science is applicable not only to neuroscience but also to other research areas