Human Cell Atlas

Pediatric Cell Atlas

It has long been recognized that children differ significantly from adults in health and disease. Prognosis and outcomes are age-dependent in many pediatric diseases. Similarly, medical interventions such as anesthesia and drug treatments vary by dosage and response in an age-dependent fashion. The physiological bases of many of these age-related differences are not well understood, but are pervasive through pediatric medicine. There is currently little to no understanding of normal cellular function within pediatric tissues, or how these associated cellular processes relate to the course of normal child development and maturation. Any high-resolution study of pediatric disease would require comparison with similar studies of age-matched normal, healthy pediatric tissue — a resource that does not currently exist.

As part of the Human Cell Atlas effort, we are embarking on an effort to map cells in children’s tissues. The Pediatric Cell Atlas will focus not only on understanding the molecular characteristics of normal cells from children’s tissues, but how these cells and tissues change over the course of the pediatric age range. This data resource will allow researchers to compare and contrast cellular composition, state, and function in pediatric tissues versus those from adults, possibly leading to new targeted treatments for pediatric disease and providing insights into tissue renewal and growth. This data will complement adult and developmental-focused Human Cell Atlas projects to provide a rich cytogenomic framework for understanding not only pediatric health and disease but also environmental and genetic impacts across the human lifespan.

The scale of the PCA endeavor will require contributions from large teams spanning clinical and basic research across multiple institutions and across a range of ages in all pediatric tissue systems. Our efforts are described below. Other institutions and resources are welcome to join by signing up to the HCA registry, committing to HCA values of equity and diversity, and indicating their interest in contributing to the Pediatric Cell Atlas.

  • CloseRead

    PCA team 1

    We have assembled collaborators from around the globe including many from major pediatric institutions including the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center (CCHMC), Beatrix Children’s Hospital, Children’s National Medical Center, and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Pediatric working group members will be able to share and leverage existing pediatric resources and contribute samples to the Human Cell Atlas.

    Pilot studies in the Atlas will provide normal reference tissues and cells for studies on the origins of diseases affecting children; reveal physiological differences in tissues between adults and children; provide insight into growth and development of human tissues across ages that may also provide a perspective into organ regeneration; and provide insight into the basic biology of growth, development and maturation.

    Another goal of the Atlas is to understand healthy development. Traditional medicine tends to address a disease when it manifests. We do not know if adult diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer have cellular clues early in life. We also do not have a clear understanding of how the environment influences developing tissues and cells. Contrasting children’s cells and tissues across ages through to adulthood will provide insight into how cells differ in children prone to adult diseases, and to better understand those diseases that manifest at a young age. Using data from pilot studies, researchers will be able to find common aspects of healthy development across a number of different tissues.

  • CloseRead

    Other world-wide efforts

    Other Pediatric HCA efforts are ongoing in Europe, for example at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Newcastle in collaboration with the Sanger Institute.