It has long been recognized that children differ significantly from adults in health and disease, and prognosis and outcomes are age-dependent in many pediatric diseases. But there is currently limited understanding of normal cellular function within pediatric tissues, or how these associated cellular processes relate to the course of normal child development and maturation. 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 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.

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.

PCA Team 2 consist of a rapidly growing community of researchers in Europe who are actively contributing to the Pediatric Cell Atlas (PCA) initiative. Coordinating and combining efforts between groups across the globe will be of critical importance to the success of the project.

Among them are a number of groups within the University Department of Paediatrics (University of Cambridge, UK) and the Children's services at the Cambridge University Hospital Trust (CUHT, Addenbrookes Hospital, UK) are currently involved in research that will contribute towards the PCA initiative. The close proximity to the Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI, UK) and established collaborations with their single cell sequencing facilities provides an ideal set-up to prospectively recruit paediatric patients, obtain human tissue and process samples immediately. The set-up is further strengthened through an established collaborative network with several leading computational biologists based at the WSI as well as the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI, UK).

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