In partnership with the Immunological Genome Project (immgenH).
Immune cells are found throughout the body and are the primary responders to changes in our environment, from the presence of pathogens to our nutrition and even our mental state. The immune system is composed of many different cell lineages, which use innate or adaptive receptors to sense antigens or other body perturbations. The immune system includes primary immune organs, such as the thymus and bone marrow, where immunocytes differentiate; secondary immune organs like the lymph nodes and spleen, where immunocytes identify foreign molecules and initiate responses against them, then radiating and patrolling through the body. Immunocytes also reside in front line tissues such as the gut, lung, or skin, where they orchestrate a carefully controlled balance between defense against pathogens and tolerance of food or commensal microbes.
Pioneering efforts such as the Immunological Genome Project (immgenH) have systematically analyzed gene expression and its regulation across the immune system of the mouse. The Human Cell Atlas will build upon this foundation and, in partnership with the newly launched Human Immunological Genome Project (immgenH), extend it to the human immune system, at the extreme level of resolution allowed by single-cell profiling.
This effort will combine deep knowledge of immunological lineages, clinical expertise and infrastructure needed to procure and process diverse samples, genomic and computational expertise to resolve the hundreds of finely differentiated cell-types that compose all facets of the immune system, and the genomic signatures that define them. Because the immune system patrols the whole body, all immune organs and body locations will be surveyed. Because the immune system only manifests its potential when challenged, many forms of infectious and inflammatory diseases will be analyzed to assess the states that immunocytes can be pushed to adopt. Because infectious and immunologic diseases vary with geography, the effort will involve partners worldwide. The results will provide a unique and illuminating perspective on the human immune system, in unprecedented breadth and detail. It should radically transform our knowledge of immune function and dysfunction in infectious diseases, autoimmune or inflammatory disorders, and the role of immunocytes in other diseases as diverse as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and psychiatric disease.