The Human Cell Atlas (HCA) will be made up of comprehensive reference maps of all human cells — the fundamental units of life — as a basis for understanding fundamental human biological processes and diagnosing, monitoring, and treating disease. It will help scientists understand how genetic variants impact disease risk, define drug toxicities, discover better therapies, and advance regenerative medicine. A resource of such ambition and scale should be built in stages, increasing in size, breadth, and resolution as technologies develop and understanding deepens. We will therefore pursue Phase 1 as a suite of flagship projects in key tissues, systems, and organs. We will bring together experts in biology, medicine, genomics, technology development and computation (including data analysis, software engineering, and visualization). We will also need standardized experimental and computational methods that will allow us to compare diverse cell and tissue types — and samples across human communities — in consistent ways, ensuring that the resulting resource is truly global. This document, the first version of the HCA White Paper, was written by experts in the field with feedback and suggestions from the HCA community, gathered during recent international meetings. The White Paper, released at the close of this yearlong planning process, will be a living document that evolves as the HCA community provides additional feedback, as technological and computational advances are made, and as lessons are learned during the construction of the atlas.
The Human Cell Atlas White Paper