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UQ scientists to help create ‘manual for life’

IMB clinical genomics expert Dr Joseph Powell


UQ scientists to help create ‘manual for life’

Scientists from The University of Queensland have joined a global effort to map every single cell in the human body to create a freely accessible database that will eventually become an ‘instruction manual for life itself’.

Fourteen Australian biomedical institutions, including UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), have united to coordinate a national approach to the Human Cell Atlas.

IMB clinical genomics expert Dr Joseph Powell said the project would impact every aspect of biological research and medicine, propelling translational discoveries and applications for a new era of personalised and regenerative medicine.

“The Human Cell Atlas could be a real game-changer in the same way the Human Genome Project advanced our understanding of health and disease,” he said.

“The Human Genome Project led to the discovery of more than 1900 disease genes, meaning today’s researchers can find a gene suspected of causing an inherited disease in a matter of days rather than years.

“In Australia alone there are now more than 1700 genetic tests for human conditions, enabling patients to learn their genetic risks for disease.

“The Human Cell Atlas holds similarly exciting potential for health, as it could help to create a map for predicting disease, even before symptoms are observed or detected.”

Human Cell Atlas organising committee member and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute cellular biologist Dr Shalin Naik said the project would have a revolutionary impact on how diseases were understood, diagnosed and treated.

“Cells are the building blocks of all living things, but our knowledge of them is surprisingly limited,” Dr Naik said.

“The more we learn about cells – their different types, functions and how they interact with one another across different organs and tissues in different people and across populations – the more we will understand about health and what might be going wrong in cases of disease.”

The project was founded by Dr Aviv Regev from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the US and Dr Sarah Teichmann from the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

source: The University of Queensland

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