Spatial lung cell atlas offers insights into disease and immune function

The most comprehensive lung cell atlas to date, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and collaborators, has revealed 11 new lung cell types and offers detailed insight into an immune process involved in fighting lung infections.

Published today (21 December 2022) in Nature Genetics, this freely available resource highlights multiple immune cells, barrier cells, and their environments in the lung that are implicated in respiratory diseases and infections.

This new lung cell atlas, which is part of the wider international Human Cell Atlas Initiative*, combined single cell sequencing with spatial transcriptomics to provide a fuller picture of how cells interact and communicate with each other.

While single cell studies have advanced the understanding of lung function, the lungs are made up of complex structures and environments that cannot be investigated by single cell sequencing alone. For example, there are many unanswered questions about how the cells are organised and how specific cell types, especially rare cell types, contribute to lung disease.

Chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung disease, are leading causes of death worldwide1. Understanding communication between cells within their local environment in healthy lungs can help determine what is disrupted in disease, and give clues on how to prevent or treat this.

In this study, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and collaborators, genetically profiled nearly 200,000 cells from lung tissue of 13 donors, discovering 11 new cell types, and showing the exact location of 80 cell types in total.

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