Showing location of proteins in cells opens a new chapter in human biology

Published: 2016-12-05


A new chapter of the Human Protein Atlas, HPA, has been launched: The Cell Atlas – an open-access interactive database of images showing the location of over 12,000 proteins in cells. 

“After the genome projects that has characterized the number of human protein-coding genes, the next step is to elucidate the function of these proteins. Being able to show the location of the human proteins in time and space with a subcellular resolution is an essential first step towards novel insights into protein function.” Said Mathias Uhlén, KTH Royal Institute of Technology/SciLifeLab and Director of the Human Protein Atlas.

To build the Cell Atlas, the researchers got help from the general public via an online game. The Cell Atlas team developed the mini-game Project Discovery for EVE Online gamers together with CCP Games, Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), Reykjavik University.

“At any time and place in EVE, players are able to play the mini-game Project Discovery and categorize the protein expression patterns from Cell Atlas images into different organelle categories, This was a help for us in classifying organelle substructures and refining the details in the Cell Atlas”, Said Emma Lundberg, KTH Royal Institute of Technology/SciLifeLab and Director of the Cell Atlas.

“In particular, we expect the Cell Atlas to play a key role in the exciting new area of spatial proteomics. In order to expand our understanding of the workings of human cells from a holistic point of view, in particular in the context of health and disease, detailed knowledge about the underlying molecular system is needed.” Said Emma Lundberg.