October 9, 2019

National effort to focus on mapping human body on cellular level

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –  How the human body’s trillions of cells are organized and interconnected and how they interact with each other are factors critical to good health, yet science does not understand the fine details of this intricate system.

The National Institutes of Health aims to tackle this complex problem by working to create a comprehensive map of individual cells throughout the entire body. The seven-year effort is called the Human BioMolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP), a nationwide consortium of universities and research institutions. A paper describing the HuBMAP consortium is appearing on Oct. 9 in the journal Nature.

Purdue University is part of this effort, with a multidisciplinary research team led by Julia Laskin, the William F. and Patty J. Miller Professor of Analytical Chemistry. The team includes researchers from Marquette University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

HuBMAP will harness the latest molecular and cellular biology technologies to study the connections that cells have with each other throughout the body. New and emerging technologies are making it possible to visualize high-resolution 3-D features of cells in tissues and to explore the organization of tissues at the individual cell level.

The Purdue-led team is one of the four HuBMAP “Transformative Technology Development Groups” tasked with developing advanced technologies for the research.

“We are developing novel technologies for the high-throughput imaging of hundreds of biomolecules such as metabolites, lipids, peptides and proteins in human tissues with high spatial resolution,” Laskin said.

These technologies will involve the use of ambient mass spectrometry imaging, a powerful technique that enables spatial mapping of different classes of biomolecules in biological systems without the need to attach “labels” such as dyes to tissues being studied.

“Because it does not require any special sample pretreatment, the method is particularly useful for high-throughput automated imaging applications,” Laskin said.

This project will combine several innovative approaches to address challenges associated with the high-throughput high-resolution ambient mass spectrometry imaging of lipids and metabolites using a technique called nanospray desorption electrospray ionization, and protein imaging using a “nanodroplet” processing platform also called nanoPOTS.

The human body contains an estimated 37 trillion cells, and the organization, specialization, and cooperation of different cells within specific tissues have a profound impact on tissue growth, function and aging. This complex interplay also might indicate the emergence of disease. Immune cells within tissues, for example, perform routine surveillance duties, and the ability to detect subtle changes in this activity would help signal the emergence of disease before symptoms are clinically detectable.

Information about the program and the HuBMAP consortium are available at https://commonfund.nih.gov/hubmap and https://hubmapconsortium.org/

Writer: Emil Venere  

Media contact: Steve Tally, 765-494-9809, steve@purdue.edu, @sciencewriter  

Source: Julia Laskin, 765-494-5464, jlaskin@purdue.edu 

Note to Journalists:  A copy of the paper is available by contacting Steve Tally at 765-494-9809, steve@purdue.edu 


Mapping the Human Body at Cellular Resolution -- The NIH Human BioMolecular Atlas         

Michael P. Snyder1*, Shin Lin2*, Amanda Posgai3*, Mark Atkinson3*, Aviv Regev4,5, Jennifer Rood4, Orit Rozenblatt-Rosen4, Leslie Gaffney4, Anna Hupalowska4, Rahul Satija6,7, Nils Gehlenborg8, Jay Shendure9, Julia Laskin10, Pehr Harbury11, Nicholas A. Nystrom12, Jonathan C. Silverstein13, Ziv Bar-Joseph14, Kun Zhang15, Katy Börner16, Yiing Lin17, Richard Conroy18, Dena Procaccini18, Ananda L. Roy18, Ajay Pillai19, Marishka Brown20, Zorina S. Galis20

 1 Department of Genetics, Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305  2 Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195  3 Department of Pathology, University of Florida Diabetes Institute, Gainesville, FL 32610  4 Klarman Cell Observatory Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge MA 02142 5 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA 02140  6 New York Genome Center, New York City, NY 10013 7 New York University, New York NY 10012 8 Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115 9 Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine, Allen Discovery Center for Cell Lineage Tracing, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle WA 98105 10 Department of Chemistry, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907 11 Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 41 94305 12 Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 13 Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 14 Computational Biology Department, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 15 Department of Bioengineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093 16 Department of Intelligent Systems Engineering, School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47408 17 Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110 50 18 Office of Strategic Coordination, Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 19 National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892 20 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892

Transformative technologies are enabling the construction of three dimensional (3D) maps of tissues with unprecedented spatial and molecular resolution. Over the next seven years, the NIH Common Fund Human Biomolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP) intends to develop a widely accessible framework for comprehensively mapping the human body at single-cell resolution by supporting technology development, data acquisition, and detailed spatial mapping. HuBMAP will integrate its efforts with other funding agencies, programs, consortia, and the biomedical research community at large towards the shared vision of a comprehensive, accessible 3D molecular and cellular atlas of the human body, in health and various disease settings.

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