Cell atlas: 37 trillion cells in the human body will be catalogued in ambitious effort


The objective is to construct the first comprehensive “cell atlas,” or map of human cells, a technological marvel that should comprehensively reveal, for the first time, what human bodies are actually made of and provide scientists a sophisticated new model of biology that could speed the search for drugs.

To perform the task of cataloguing the 37.2 trillion cells of the human body, an international consortium of scientists from the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Israel, the Netherlands, and Japan is being assembled to assign each a molecular signature and also give each type a zip code in the three-dimensional space of our bodies.

Previous attempts at describing cells, from the hairy neurons that populate the brain and spinal cord to the glutinous fat cells of the skin, suggest there are about 300 variations in total. But the true figure is undoubtedly larger. Analyzing molecular differences between cells has already revealed, for example, two new types of retinal cells that escaped decades of investigation of the eye; a cell that forms the first line of defense against pathogens and makes up four in every 10,000 blood cells; and a newly spotted immune cell that uniquely produces a steroid that appears to suppress the immune response.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Biology’s next mega-project will find out what we’re really made of