Labs around the world will create the most comprehensive map of the 35 trillion cells that make up the human body under plans put forward by researchers. The international effort aims to decipher the types and properties of every cell a person contains, whether healthy or diseased, in a bid to speed up discoveries in medical science.
Named the Human Cell Atlas, the project amounts to the most concerted attempt yet to work out what we are made from and how illnesses develop when the building blocks of the body fail.
“Having an understanding of who we are is part of the human endeavour,” said Aviv Regev, a computational biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT in Massachusetts. “We want to know what we are made of. But this will have a substantial impact on our scientific understanding and as a result, on our ability to diagnose, monitor and treat disease.”
The project has already gained support from Cori Bargmann, the incoming president of the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the multibillion dollar medical research effort led by Priscilla Chan and her husband, Mark Zuckerberg.