To create comprehensive reference maps of all human cells—the fundamental units of life—as a basis for both understanding human health and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease.
Cells are the most fundamental unit of life. They vary enormously within the body, and express different sets of genes. We know surprisingly little about them. Without maps of different cell types and where they are located in the body, we cannot describe all their functions and understand the biological networks that direct their activities.
In London on 13 and 14 October, 2016, a collaborative community of world-leading scientists will meet and discuss how to build a Human Cell Atlas—a collection of maps that will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease.
A complete Human Cell Atlas would give us a unique postal code for each cell type, a three-dimensional map of how cell types work together to form tissues, knowledge of how all body systems are connected, and insights into how changes in the map underlie health and disease. It would allow us to identify which genes associated with disease are active in our bodies and where, and analyze the regulatory mechanisms that govern the production of different cell types.
This has been a key challenge in biology for more than 150 years. However, very recently, new tools have put it within reach - including single cell genomics. With this toolkit, we now have the opportunity to achieve unprecedented insight into biological processes, spawn even more advanced experimental and computational technologies, and dramatically accelerate our understanding of human biology and disease.
This is an ambitious but achievable goal, and would require the energy and commitment of a broad and international community of biologists, clinicians, technologists, physicists, computational scientists and mathematicians.
On 13 and 14 of October, working across disciplinary and national borders, we will discuss how to shape such a project.