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.


In London on 13 and 14 October, 2016, a collaborative community of world-leading scientists met and discussed how to build a Human Cell Atlas—a collection of maps that will describe and define the cellular basis of health and disease.

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. It is an ambitious but achievable goal, and requires an international community of biologists, clinicians, technologists, physicists, computational scientists, software engineers, and mathematicians.

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Latest News

  • 10. Oct. 2016.


    A group of leading biomedical researchers from around the world is undertaking a pioneering effort to describe the cells in the human body.

    The Human Cell Atlas would create a reference map of all human cells, to revolutionise how scientists and doctors understand, diagnose and treat disease. This exciting initiative brings together an international community of researchers contributing their diverse expertise.

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  • 16. Dec. 2016.

    Next Human Cell Atlas Meeting

    The next Human Cell Atlas meeting will be held at Stanford University on 23–24 February 2017, hosted by The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Chan Zuckerberg Science.

    Invitees will gather in order to formulate recommendations to advance the Human Cell Atlas project. In particular, this meeting will focus on addressing the technological challenges and opportunities presented by the Human Cell Atlas in areas including large-scale single-cell RNA sequencing, spatially-resolved methods, single-cell proteomics, epigenomics, and sample handling. The meeting will also address quality controls, benchmarking and method comparison.

    For more information about this meeting please contact: hca@humancellatlas.org.
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