The body of a human adult is made up of trillions of cells invisible to the naked eye. Although modern science has uncovered much of the mystery surrounding how these cells interact, the truth is that much is still unknown to us.
A group of scientists decided to help us better understand the ways these cells connect, interact and organize in the tissues and organs of our body by creating HuBMAP. A real "Google Maps of the body", a map of the human body that allows anyone to take a deep dive into our body, up to a cellular level.
The future map of the human body
"Our current methods of general human body mapping are limited," he explains in a press release Jonathan Silverstein, professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "At the moment there is not enough data to address several diseases."
Silverstein is part of an international group of medical scientists working on the creation of the new interactive cellular 3D map of the human body, described as a "Google Maps of the body".
The Human BioMolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP for short) aims to create a kind of atlas that can be used mainly by doctors. It will help them visualize, study and understand the human body with an incredible level of detail.
How HuBMAP works
HuBMAP is comprised of 18 collaborative research teams from across the United States and Europe. To map the human body, researchers take blood samples from different parts of the body from donors. These samples are then digitally intertwined to create the 3D human body map.
The first HuBMAP data were released this week: you can consult them on portal.hubmapconsortium.org.
A Google Maps-style interactive human body map can serve not only for educational purposes. Showing the inside of our body with a detail never before achieved in history is not everything in the world of Big Data.
HuBMAP could also be used to better plan strategies and approaches to treating diseases. Such as? The map, just like Google Maps, will have different views obtained from the different types of cells mapped.
It will be possible to observe the vision of a body suffering from a particular disease, and from the comparison between the cells of the normal vision and those of the diseased vision to understand how a disease affects the body. One day, HuBMAP could be the database on which to build a "navigator" for lowercase medical nanobots able to travel in our body and distribute drugs.
"I've done a lot of great projects in my career, but this is arguably the most exciting," says Silverstein. "It will be a great national asset for a long time."