Skip to main content

James S. Hagood, MD, is part of a national collaboration of scientists working to create a 3D map of the human body. The group is the Human Biomolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP) Consortium, and in an article published in Nature Magazine, HuBMAP has set out its goals for the project. The article can be found here, and a press release about the project follows:

Press Release:

U.S. Collaboration Begins Mapping Human Body to Single-Cell Level

HuBMAP Consortium Charts out Goals for Navigable 3D Map in Article in Nature Magazine

Oct. 9, 2019

A national collaboration of scientists has taken the first steps to creating a 3D map of the human body, down to the level of single cells and smaller. In an article in the prestigious journal Nature, the Human Biomolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP) Consortium charts out its goals for creating an interactive map that scientists can use to navigate through the human body to answer questions about its functions in health and disease. HuBMAP will continue over the next four years with an anticipated total of $54 million in grants, pending availability of resources, from the NIH Common Fund over the lifespan of the program.

“This project will transform our understanding of the human body and how it works,” said Michael Snyder, PhD, principal author of the article and principal investigator/project leader for the Stanford Tissue Mapping Center of HuBMAP. “It is a major step forward toward understanding how our ten trillion cells are organized and work together to make a complicated human being. By mapping these cells in a normal person, we will better understand what is happening during human disease.”

Understanding important high-resolution features of cells in tissues remains a challenge. Recently developed technologies, including many supported through NIH programs, allow researchers to explore the organization of large numbers of cells at the individual cell level. These advances opened the possibility to study and map the organization of all cells within tissues or organs across the human body. While HuBMAP is not anticipated to map the entire body, it will get the work started, providing a framework for more complete mapping and making data available to the research community for further study.

HuBMAP’s tissue-mapping centers will collect and analyze tissues from mostly healthy men and women of different ethnicities and ages. Organs to be sampled include discreet organs such as the kidney, ureter, bladder, lung, breast, small intestine and colon; the blood vessels; and immune-system organs such as the lymphatic tissues, spleen, thymus and lymph nodes. The scientists will obtain consent from participants over and above standard regulations when possible in order to make the data available for “open access.” The goal is to help the open biomedical research community make maximum use of HuBMAP’s data.

HuBMAP is funded by the NIH Common Fund. It is managed by a trans-NIH working group and led by staff from the Common Fund; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering; and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“NIH Common Fund programs are intended to have far-reaching influences across many areas of biomedical science,” said James M. Anderson, MD, PhD, Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the Common Fund. “HuBMAP plans to provide a framework for researchers, scientists, and clinicians to understand the organization and function of the human body at the biomolecular level. The new technologies and high-resolution data created by HuBMAP will change our view of the human body.”

In order to make optimal use of the diversity of data that the HuBMAP scientists expect to collect, the collaborators will develop new tools to visualize and analyze microscopic images. Their aim is to bridge the gaps in resolution between current methods of making images of the body, from photography to light microscopy to electron microscopy to biochemistry.

In addition to working with its own data, software and computational resources, HuBMAP will cooperate with scientists in the international community as part of a global effort to build high-resolution maps of the human body. HuBMAP scientists expect that their initial maps will represent the “tip of the iceberg;” while they hope to contribute to the understanding of human health and disease, they also see their efforts serving as a foundation for future applications of anatomical data to diagnose, study and treat disease.