Towards a human cell atlas

24 March 2017

Sarah Teichmann
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK

Aviv Regev
Broad Institute, Boston, Cambridge, USA


Cells are the most fundamental unit of life, yet we know surprisingly little about them. They vary enormously within the body, and express different sets of genes. 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.

A complete Human Cell Atlas would give us a unique ID card 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. New tools such as single-cell genomics have put it within reach. There are theoretical questions about design of such an atlas which we will discuss in this chalk talk.

current theory lunch schedule