Joslin researchers selected by Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative for Human Cell Atlas project

Researchers from Joslin Diabetes Center have been selected by the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) as one of 38 collaborative science teams that will launch CZI's Seed Networks for a Human Cell Atlas projects.

These collaborative groups will bring together scientists, computational biologists, software engineers, and physicians to support the continued development of the Human Cell Atlas (HCA), an international effort to map all cells in the human body.

Participants in the three-year Seed Networks projects will focus on mapping specific tissues, such as the heart, eye, or liver, in the healthy human body. The resulting cellular and molecular maps will be a resource for understanding what goes wrong when disease strikes.

The Joslin group will focus on the variety of adipose tissue in healthy humans through chemical imaging, and single-cell and single-nucleus RNA sequencing from adipocytes and adipocyte precursors with distinct anatomical origins and metabolic function.

Principal investigators from Joslin will be Yu-Hua Tseng, PhD, Senior Investigator in the Section on Integrative Physiology and Metabolism at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School -- and Mary-Elizabeth Patti, MD, Investigator, Co-Director of the Joslin Advanced Genetics and Genomics Core, Director of the Hypoglycemia Clinic at Joslin and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

George L. King, MD, Chief Scientific Officer at Joslin and Professor of Medicine and Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, stated:

The HCA project is extremely important similiar to the Human Genome project since all human are made of thousands types of cells. Drs. Tseng and Dr Patti's contribution to identify the different type of cells in adipose tissues will be critical for all fields of science and human diseases but it is especially essential for understanding causes and treatments of metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity which are major public health problems for the world."

"Adipose tissue plays a pivotal role in metabolism. In the past decade, we have learned there are different types of fat, including the calorie-storing white fat and the energy-burning brown and beige/brite fat," said Dr Tseng. "We've also come to the realization that cellular components of adipose tissue are key to its metabolic function and to the associated pathologies. With the support from this funding, now we are able to dissect the human adipose tissue at the single cell resolution."

Dr. Patti added, "Adipose tissue is so critical for regulating the body's metabolism. Identifying differences in function and gene regulation between cells within adipose tissue in different parts of the human body will be essential to understanding how this complex tissue functions in healthy individuals, but also how it may contribute to risk for chronic disease. "

The group also includes Aaron Streets, PhD, Assistant Professor, Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, and Nir Yosef, PhD, Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley.

"The global Human Cell Atlas effort is a beacon for what can be accomplished when experts across scientific fields and time zones work together towards a common goal," said CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann. "With CZI's Seed Networks grants, we're excited to further support and build interdisciplinary collaborations that will accelerate progress towards a first draft of the Human Cell Atlas."

According to CZI, the Seed Networks grantees represent more than 20 countries and 200 labs, with 45 percent of projects featuring international collaborations. These networks will support coordination between scientists and engineers, solidify collaborations, and help generate valuable data and tools for the first draft of the Atlas.

CZI expects the Seed Networks projects to generate new tools, open source analysis methods, and significant contributions of diverse data types to the Human Cell Atlas Data Coordination Platform, a unified resource that will enable data sharing across researchers and research institutes. CZI plans to make all the data, protocols and computational tools developed as a part of Seed Networks freely available to the research community.

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