Podcast: Cataloguing every human cell in the quest to build ‘Human Cell Atlas’

| | January 14, 2019

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Your body has around 37 trillion cells – no, really, we’ve counted, all bodies do, including BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music – heart cells, liver cells, bone cells. NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce reports scientists are now using a powerful technology to discover the kinds of cells that weren’t previously recognized, and their goal is to build an atlas of every cell in the human body.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: At the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston, I watch a researcher named Julia Waldman consider some bits of what looks like orange Styrofoam. It’s skin – frozen, human skin.

She puts thousands of [cell nuclei] into a special device. It encases each cell nucleus in a separate droplet of oil along with a tiny bead of gel that has a unique barcode. When these droplets get run through a machine, the contents of each individual cell nucleus can be analyzed separately, thousands of them all at once.

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[Researcher Aviv] Regev and some of her colleagues plan to catalogue every single cell type in the human body. They call it the Human Cell Atlas.

The effort started a couple years ago, and it will take years to complete. But the payoff could be huge with new insights into all kinds of diseases.

Read full, original post: Biological Cartographers Seek To Map The Trillions Of Cells In The Human Body

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