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Interior of Human Cells Mapped for the First Time

It's a breakthrough that could be a game-changer for healthcare.


One of the first 3D renderings using the new technique shows the cell with 17 of its major components
One of the first 3D renderings using the new technique shows the cell with 17 of its major components | Allen Institute for Cell Science

Scientists have just revealed a new way to see how cells organize themselves, shining new light on the building blocks of life. In a new database of 200,000 images, scientists captured details about the rich variation in their shapes - even among genetically identical cells grown under the same conditions.


Published in the journal Nature last week, the research is the culmination of the work the Allen Institute for Cell Science has been doing since it was launched 8 years ago.


This milestone in cell biology - akin to discovering “design principles” of the cell - unlocks the potential to find new treatments for diseases where cells malfunction. Scientists at the Institute say the findings are applicable to virtually any cell.


The Institute's new data will enable researchers to uncover the foundational principles of shape and internal organization of human cells. That's potentially very good news as understanding how cells organize themselves under healthy conditions - and the range of variability within “normal” - is key to understanding what goes wrong in disease.


“What I’m truly excited about is how we and others in the community can now build on this and ask questions about cell biology that we could never ask before,” says Ru Gunawardane, Executive Director of the Allen Institute for Cell Science.

 

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