Advances in single-cell technologies have transformed the ability to identify the individual cell types present within tissues and organs. The musculoskeletal bionetwork, part of the wider Human Cell Atlas project, aims to create a detailed map of the healthy musculoskeletal system at a single-cell resolution throughout tissue development and across the human lifespan, with complementary generation of data from diseased tissues. Given the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders, this detailed reference dataset will be critical to understanding normal musculoskeletal function in growth, homeostasis and ageing. The endeavour will also help to identify the cellular basis for disease and lay the foundations for novel therapeutic approaches to treating diseases of the joints, soft tissues and bone. Here, we present a Roadmap delineating the critical steps required to construct the first draft of a human musculoskeletal cell atlas. We describe the key challenges involved in mapping the extracellular matrix-rich, but cell-poor, tissues of the musculoskeletal system, outline early milestones that have been achieved and describe the vision and directions for a comprehensive musculoskeletal cell atlas. By embracing cutting-edge technologies, integrating diverse datasets and fostering international collaborations, this endeavour has the potential to drive transformative changes in musculoskeletal medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-752
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Rheumatology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


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