Charting a map to the heart: Researchers receive grant to create a cell atlas of the human heart - Featuring Anindita Basu & Sebastian Pott

Feb 14, 2020
By Sarah Richards

Micrograph of laboratory-grown heart muscle cells. Fluorescent labeling shows mitochondria (red), cytoskeleton (green), and nuclei (blue).

Credit: Douglas B. Cowan and James D. McCully, Harvard Medical School, Boston

Two University of Chicago scientists are part of an international team of researchers awarded a three-year, nearly $4 million grant to define every cell type in the human heart.

The grant is part of $68 million in funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to support the Human Cell Atlas, an international effort by experts in biology, computation and medicine to map all of the cells in the human body. The resulting cellular and molecular map will help researchers better understand what goes wrong when disease strikes.

“The idea is to build a reference atlas to learn about the normal state of heart cells,” said Sebastian Pott, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Human Genetics. “Having this reference will allow us to better understand the cellular composition of the human heart as well as how it differs between individuals.”

Pott and Anindita Basu, PhD, assistant professor in genetic medicine, will tap the emerging field of single cell genomics to perform single-cell sequencing on normal heart samples. Basu is a pioneer in the method, having developed high-throughput, microfluidics-based single cell RNA sequencing technology. This project builds on a 2016 CZI-funded pilot study in which the sequencing technique was perfected, benchmarked and used on adult human heart cells for the first time.

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