One million individual cells from 33 organs, the largest human cell atlas ever created

The human body can be studied at different levels. We can look at anatomy, as it has been done for centuries; in cells and tissues, as advanced with the discovery of the microscope; or in their chromosomes and genes, as obtained with the sequencing of our genome. Then we can apply different methods. Whereas Attempts to explain biology and biochemistry processesMedicine focuses on diseases to cure them.

With the advancement of science, each time something is discovered, we can deepen what we already know or add to our methods to multiply the findings. This is what happens with the new indexing tool. The genome we have obtained for our species does not belong to a specific human or organ, but In general, the complete sequence of a perfect model is, There is still something important to find out. How is our genome cell by cell?

The technology that makes this possible is single cell sequencing (scRNA-seq). single cell RNA sequencingbased on RNA technology). We are talking about a single cell sequence, which opens up a whole range of possibilities., With it, scientists map the transcriptome (of any species and of any organ) at the single cell level, showing all the differences between cells, including their different stages. The information obtained from these cell atlases is vast and organized in a database for each cell.

Your apps skyrocket. In embryology, they serve to identify where each cell came from. In development, of any dividing cell and its derivatives, to trace the cell lineage after birth. In evolution, comparing homologous cells of different species. In medicine and pharmacy, to identify the origin of a disease, to develop even better diagnostic methods, to design new treatments, or to evaluate the efficacy of a drug.

This Thursday, Magazine Science has published a significant progress in this area, presenting with four new publications, Largest human cell atlas ever created, This is not the first time that our organs have been sequenced cell by cell. This line of research is of such dimensions that the person leading the work, the International Human Cell Atlas Consortium (HCA), had already unveiled a cell atlas of various organs, such as the brain, lung or kidney.

To date, they have focused on individual organs and tissues. Now comes a series of cross-sectional maps, the so-called inter-fabric maps, Atlas of over a million individual cells from 33 organs, This is a discovery with great therapeutic implications for both common and rare diseases, for the development of vaccines, antitumor immunology or regenerative medicine.

four posts together

When it comes to great discoveries, scientific journals tend to synchronize their publication at the same time. That’s what happened with this new Cell Atlas and its four related articles.

In the first study, La Wise’s Table, a cell atlas that provides 400 different cell types derived from 24 organs. To assemble the data, the RNA 500,000 living cells From individual people, analyzing those who came from the same donor and controlling for cross comparisons for their genetic background, age, environmental exposures and epigenetic effects.

Second Atlas is made from over 200,000 frozen cells, Samples are taken from 8 healthy human organs from 16 donors. In addition, machine learning techniques have been used to associate Atlas cells with thousands of diseases related to a single gene, as well as diseases related to complex genetic factors. The goal is to find out what types of cells and which genes are involved in certain diseases.

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The projection of different types of cells into different human organs and systems.Human Cell Atlas

The third study addressed the human immune system, which provides Cellular Atlas of the Immune System, not only of blood cells, but also of cells that are located in the rest of the tissues. To do this, the authors of this research team sequenced adult and developing immune cells from 16 tissues from 12 adult donors, obtaining gene expression from more than 300,000 cells. In addition, he has developed an artificial intelligence tool called the Cell Typist with which he has identified 101 Different Cell TypesAnalysis of over a million cells, either because of its characteristics or because of its condition.

Finally, the fourth article focuses on the 9 prenatal tissues. Thus, a Single cell and spatial atlas of the immune system at all stages of gestation, This work suggests that the development of blood cells and the immune system occurs not only in primary hematopoietic organs, but also in many peripheral tissues.

Two experts assess progress in scRNA-seq sequencing

One of the pioneers and greatest experts in the technology of single cell sequencing, he directed several projects to build the Human Cell Atlas. This Kun Zhang is a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Zhang has attended the Age-Free Science Meeting held in Salamanca this week and in which the medium has participated.

There he compared the scientific effort to obtain a human cell atlas to the sequencing of our genome. “Twenty years ago, when the Great Human Genome Project was developed, there were a number of groups that only worked on one or two chromosomes, such as chromosome 21 or 13. When they put it together, the great human genome was obtained. ,” They said. Explained this medium.

While, on occasion, Zhang is not part of the macro-study published this Thursday in Science, he has done so before. ,This research is coordinated by a larger consortium to which my group has contributed atlases of various human organs: atlases of the brain, lungs and kidneys.“The publications that come out now are going to have a significant meaning,” Zhang explained. “They worked on one of those chromosomes 20 years ago when it came to publishing the human genome. ,

It is not the only atlas of the human species that has been made. There are many other organisms, different organs or tissues. Study of non-human primates (Macaques) recently published in the journal Nature, 35 international institutions have participated in it. Among them are the CIBER group on neurodegenerative diseases led by Pura Muoz, 2021 Ramon y Cajal National Research Award winner, ICREA Professor of Cell Biology at the University of Pompeau Fabra (UPF) and researchers from the Tissue Regeneration Laboratory at the National Center for Biology. Cardiovascular Research (CNIC).

Muoz, who has not participated in the Human Cell Atlas, is an expert in aging processes and, thanks to scRNA-seq technology Different types of old cells have been identified, as stated in the meeting in Salamanca. From there he has assessed studies in humans for this paper and commented on the results of the Cell Atlas in the study of age-related diseases.

“lasso Senescent cells are part of the tissues as we age, They are also present whenever there is damage”, he remarked. The process of tissue damage leads to the appearance of these cells, “which are sometimes beneficial, but almost always harmful”, What happens, he indicated, is when, as we age, the mechanisms responsible for eliminating them begin to fail and, over time, “they play a negative role on the cells in their environment.” They are the guests that cause problems when they are damaged and the problem is that they increase as they age,” assures Muoz.

For single-cell sequencing techniques, for both primates and humans, “we’re going to see an increase in the number of damaged cells, which are not good in tissues,” Muoz explained. ,These publications tell us how we are when we get older so that we can see the causes of aging And see what we can do to reverse it. If we don’t know how we are, there’s nothing we can do to fight it.”

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