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A Roadmap for the Human Developmental Cell Atlas

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Muzlifah Haniffa, Dr Bayanne Olabi, Dr Roser Vento-Tormo, Dr Simone Webb



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Springer Nature, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The Human Developmental Cell Atlas (HDCA) initiative, part of the Human Cell Atlas, aims to create a comprehensive reference map of cells during development. This will be critical to understand normal organogenesis, the impact of mutations, environmental factors and infectious agents on human development, its relevance to congenital and childhood disorders, and the cellular basis of ageing, cancer and regenerative medicine. In this perspective, we outline the HDCA initiative and the challenges of mapping and modelling human development using state-of-the-art technologies in order to create a reference atlas across gestation. Like the Human Genome Project, the HDCA project will integrate the output from a growing community of scientists mapping human development into a unified atlas. We describe the early milestones achieved and the use of human stem cell-derived cultures, organoids and animal models to inform the HDCA, especially for prenatal tissues that are hard to acquire. Finally, we provide a roadmap towards a complete atlas of human development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Haniffa M, Taylor D, Linnarsson S, Aronow BJ, Bader GD, Barker RA, Camara PG, GrayCamp J, Chédotal A, Copp A, Etchevers HC, Giacobini P, Göttgens B, Guoji G, Hupalowska A, James KR, Kirby E, Kriegstein A, Lundeberg J, Marioni JC, Meyer KB, Niakan KK, Nilsson M, Olabi B, Pe'er D, Regev A, Rood J, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Satija R, Teichmann SA, Treutlein B, Vento-Tormo R, Webb S, Developmental Biological Network HCA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature

Year: 2021

Volume: 597

Pages: 196-205

Online publication date: 08/09/2021

Acceptance date: 07/05/2021

Date deposited: 22/06/2021

ISSN (print): 0028-0836

ISSN (electronic): 1476-4687

Publisher: Springer Nature

URL: .ttps://

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03620-1


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Funder referenceFunder name
EU Horizon 2020
Medical Research Council
Wellcome Trust