Human heart atlas
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The Human Heart Atlas, a step towards personalized medicine

The human heart is a vital organ of the body that pumps and circulates blood. Dysfunctioning of this organ causes severe complications in the body. In order to understand the functioning of this organ better, scientists have created a cellular and molecular map of the human heart. The organ studied in this research were in healthy condition but were not suitable for organ donation. This study will help scientists to understand what goes wrong in cardiovascular diseases.

Researchers around the world have collaborated to analyze about half a million individual heart cells to build the first draft cell atlas of the human heart. The collaborators include researchers from Wellcome Sanger Institute, Harvard Medical School, Imperial College London. The study also included researchers from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) in Germany, EMBL-EBI, and their global collaborators.

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The atlas reveals deep insights into the functioning of the heart. The huge diversity of heart cells and the type of heart muscle cells are revealed in the atlas. It also gives information on the protective immune cells and the intricate network of blood vessels. It can predict the cell communication network for the functioning of the heart.

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The research is an initiative to map each type of human body cell, the Human Cell Atlas. The new molecular and cellular information of the heart will aid in a better understanding of the dysfunctioning of the organ and pave a path for personalized medicine. This potentially can direct towards regenerative medicine in the future.

Each year an estimated 17.9 million people die around the world due to cardiovascular diseases. Heart attacks and strokes are the most commonly occurring cardiovascular disease. The information about the intricate molecular processes in a healthy heart will help researchers understand better what leads to heart diseases and create better therapeutic strategies.

The researchers in the new study considered about 500,000 individual cells and cell nuclei from six different locations. A total of 14 healthy donated hearts were studied. In order to monitor exactly which genes were switched on in each cell, the team combined single-cell technologies, imaging techniques, and machine learning.

In the study, the researchers discovered that cells from different locations in the heart vary greatly. They further discovered that there was a specific set of cells in each area of the heart. This highlighted the different developmental origins of cells in different areas of the heart. This may shed light on potentially different responses of the heart cells to treatments.

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Dr. Carlos Talavera-López says about how the team has combined single-cell technologies and artificial intelligence to create the most detailed atlas of the adult human heart to date. Almost half a million single cells have been characterized by the team. This study has enabled the researchers to see exactly what each cell does in the human heart for the first time. The study has revealed that cells in each chamber of the heart behave distinctly. Each cell mirror the different function depending on the area it is present, and thus helps the researchers understand the healthy human heart. Dr. Carlos, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, is one of the first authors of the study.

The hearts studied in this research were donated by 14 donors healthy heart donors which were not suitable for organ transplantation.


Human heart atlas, a step towards personalized medicine

Author: Mayuree Hazarika

Shekhar Suman is the CEO & Managing Director of BioTecNika Info Labs Pvt Ltd, An avid reader who is passionate about Bio Sciences and has gifted us BioTecNika