DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

Human cell atlas: An initiative for holistic understanding of human body

A new human atlas initiative has been launched to create a unified database of molecular network of all the tissues in the human body and to derive a holistic picture of working of the human body. The project named Manav has been launched by the Department of Biotechnology and Persistent Systems, a biotechnology company.

This mega project will collate and integrate molecular information on human tissues and organs that currently lie hidden in research articles in an unstructured and disorganised form. The project would utilise large biological community, both students and scientists, for extracting and adding the information from scientific literature at the level of cells and organs.

The database would eventually help researchers identify gaps in current knowledge and help in future projects in diagnostics and disease biology.

The idea emerged from the success of Smart India hackathon, a nationwide contest in which large number of engineering students are being encouraged to find solutions to pressing problems. In the same way, Manav will engage biology students to build their skills in reading scientific literature and deepen their understanding of biological system.

“On one hand, we have a large amount of published literature and on the other we have few lakhs of students involved in biological courses. The thought process behind Manav was to orient our students towards an aim that will train them to read scientific literature, analyse it and also the knowledge on how to design experiments,” explained Abhay Jere, national coordinator of the project, while talking to India Science Wire.

In this public-private venture, DBT and Persistent Systems will invest Rs 13 crore and Rs 7 crore respectively. The project will be executed by Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) and National Center for Cell Sciences (NCCS) based in Pune. While the institutes will train students, the technology platform and data management will be provided by the private partner. Students and faculty from DBT Star colleges and Biotechnology Information network system (BTIS) network will also be involved.

The project team is in talks with other scientific agencies such as the All India Council of Technical Education, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), University Grants Commission and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for possible collaboration.

This initiative will not only seal the gaps in knowledge on human body but will also create a trained population of biologists. With the data curation and analysis skills imparted during this project, students will have better opportunities for jobs in life science sector. The undergraduates and postgraduates from the various distinct fields of biology such as zoology, biotechnology, botany, biochemistry, pharmacology and medical sciences can register and contribute to this project.

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