The Human Cell Atlas (HCA) is a global consortium launched in 2016 with the ambitious goal of describing and defining all cell types in the human body. Phase 1 of the project will deliver a number of flagship projects that begin to build high-level maps of cells in key tissues, systems and organs.
The funding from the Wellcome Trust will support a team of experts in genomics, computational biology, cell and developmental biology, and medicine at six different UK research institutions. The team includes Kennedy Director, Professor Fiona Powrie, as well as five other Oxford researchers who bring expertise for charting the activity of cells in inflammatory disease.
Speaking of the project, Fiona said, “This collaborative venture will provide new clues on how immune cells interact in their tissue environment to promote health and how this can change in disease”.
Within the Oxford team, Kennedy researchers will work alongside investigators from the Translational Gastroenterology Unit, Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.
Leading the Oxford team is Professor Paul Klenerman, Head of the Translational Gastroenterology Unit, who said, “The Human Cell Atlas is an exciting international programme of work to help redefine the cellular components in all the tissues of the human body by taking advantage of the latest genomic and imaging techniques. The Wellcome Trust is playing an important part in this project and has funded teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle and King’s College London to work with the Sanger Centre at Cambridge on a set of related projects with a grant of £7m.”
“We are looking at the immune “cell atlas”, starting with a few key tissues - the gut, liver and skin. The work will look at cells in detail in healthy tissue, but also in inflamed tissue in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis (which is linked to IBD) and psoriasis. The data will be accessible to teams from around the world and together we will build a complete atlas for the scientific community.” said Paul.
It is hoped that over time, the Human Cell Atlas could lead to new diagnostic strategies, new treatments and new ways to monitor health and disease.