During development, controlled differentiation programmes give rise to a broad repertoire of cells with highly specialised functions and tissue locations. The Human Developmental Cell Atlas (HDCA) aims to generate a comprehensive profile of these cell types and states present during development. This detailed study of development will be critical for understanding congenital and childhood disorders, as well as ageing. Furthermore, since malignant cells exploit developmental programmes for their survival and growth, a deeper understanding of development will have impact in cancer research.


UK Team

The Wellcome Sanger Institute and Newcastle University are partnering with the Wellcome Trust- and MRC- funded Human Developmental Biological Resource (HDBR; to achieve the goals of the HDCA. The HDBR team will provide direct access to human development samples. The experimental plan includes a fine-grained analysis of the different cell populations within these precious tissues using cutting-edge single-cell genomics methods. Moreover, integration of spatial transcriptomics will generate a three-dimensional atlas of tissues during human development.

Data analysis, curation and visualisation will be led by Sanger Institute and Newcastle University. There will be a strong focus on provision and dissemination of data to the wider research community and general public, in keeping with the HCA initiative and HDBR ethos on data sharing. We expect to generate extensive biological data that will benefit the broad scientific community, as well as develop new methodologies and tools that will pave the way for future -omics studies to benefit human health.

Human Cell Atlas gets a boost with first funding from Wellcome. Further details are available.

The MRC, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is investing £6.7 million to support the UK’s contribution to mapping every cell type in the human body, through the global Human Cell Atlas initiative. Further details are available.


The Swedish initiative within the HDCA programme ( is organized, located and managed at SciLifeLab ( The aim is to work in a collaborative setting to create a comprehensive molecular atlas of human prenatal development, describing every cell type in detail and showing their spatial and temporal distributions in three dimensions. Each cell’s molecular signature will provide deeper insight into how variations and deviations contribute to health and disease. The team is building a human developmental atlas primarily focusing on the first trimester, which span the most important events of embryogenesis: formation of the nervous system and peripheral organs, birth of most cell types, and the first steps of maturation of cells into their adult forms. To accomplish this, state-of-the-art technologies established at SciLifeLab including single cell methods, spatial proteomics and spatial transcriptomics techniques will be integrated.