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Source: Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin Section through a pancreas: each color represents a different cell type. (Photo: S. Tiesmeyer, L. Tosti / BIH). Joint press release by Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) Scientists from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) have in one international project, all cells of the human pancreas are genetically examined, their exact position within the organ is determined and the connections between the individual cells are clarified. In doing so, they came across previously unknown, new cell types that can explain how this important organ works and how diseases develop in it. The project is part of the global Human Cell Atlas project, the aim of which is to analyze all cells in the human body. The researchers have now published their results in the specialist journal Gastroenterology. * “We wanted to create a resource for all researchers who are interested in the pancreas,” explains Prof. Dr. Roland Eils, head of the international pancreatic project and, as BIH Chair, founding director of the Digital Health Center at the BIH and the Charité. “Our results help those who examine the endocrine part of the pancreas that produces insulin and is responsible for the development of diabetes, for example. But our results are also relevant for scientists working on the exocrine part of the gland, which produces digestive enzymes and releases them into the small intestine, and which is affected in pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. ”Obtaining and examining pancreatic tissue proves to be extremely useful difficult: the digestive enzymes are very active and the organ is at risk of digesting itself. It was therefore important to prepare the tissue as gently and quickly as possible. The team around Prof. Eils relied on international collaborations. “We received high quality samples from our colleagues in Stanford and Munich. We then developed new protocols specifically for pancreatic tissue in our laboratory, with which we were able to obtain this type of data for the first time, ”reports Dr. Christian Conrad, in whose laboratory the investigations took place and who, together with Prof. Eils, is the last author of the publication. Luca Tosti, scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Conrad and first author of the work, used various single cell technologies in this mammoth project. “On the one hand, we isolated cell nuclei from frozen biopsies and measured the gene activity individually in each nucleus. In total, we analyzed more than 120,000 cell nuclei. We also carried out what is known as in situ sequencing in the frozen tissue. This approach not only tells us which genes are active in the various cells, but also how the cells organize themselves spatially and what relationships exist between the various cells, ”explains Dr. Tosti, the team was able to divide exocrine pancreatic cells into three subtypes. A comparison of adult tissue with that of newborns showed an astonishing change in cell composition in the course of development. “We were surprised that an organ that was previously considered to be relatively homogeneous had such a complex structure,” reports Prof. Eils. “By combining various biological and computer-aided processes, we have gained insights into the communication between cells that were previously not possible in the human pancreas.” The researchers next want to analyze samples from patients with diabetes or pancreatic tumors in order to To better understand the causes of diseases of the pancreas and to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic options based on this. The European Union is funding the Horizon 2020 project ESPACE for cellular analysis of the pancreas with a total of five million euros, of which one million goes to Berlin to go digital Health Center, from where the project is coordinated. It started in January 2020. The pancreas project is a sub-project of the Human Cell Atlas Initiative. Researchers around the world have come together to describe every single cell in the human body. The aim is to understand the processes in a healthy body in order to be able to diagnose, treat and prevent diseases better on this basis. “The Human Cell Atlas project is certainly one of the most promising projects in the life sciences,” says Prof. Eils with conviction. “Our vision is to make a decisive contribution to the understanding of human life.” The pancreas project is the only project of a total of six European Human Cell Atlas initiatives that is coordinated from Germany. * Tosti L et al . Single nucleus and in situ RNA sequencing reveals cell topographies in the human pancreas. Gastroenterology (2020), DOI: 10.1053 / j.gastro.2020.11.010

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ContactManuela ZinglCompany spokeswomanCharité – Universitätsmedizin Berlint: +49 30 450 570 400Dr. Stefanie SeltmannHead of Communication & MarketingBerlin Institute of Healtht: +49 30 450 543 019

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