Tissue registration and exploration user interfaces in support of a human reference atlas

Katy Börner, Andreas Bueckle, Bruce W. Herr, Leonard E. Cross, Ellen M. Quardokus, Elizabeth G. Record, Yingnan Ju, Jonathan C. Silverstein, Kristen M. Browne, Sanjay Jain, Clive H. Wasserfall, Marda L. Jorgensen, Jeffrey M. Spraggins, N. Heath Patterson, Griffin M. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Seventeen international consortia are collaborating on a human reference atlas (HRA), a comprehensive, high-resolution, three-dimensional atlas of all the cells in the healthy human body. Laboratories around the world are collecting tissue specimens from donors varying in sex, age, ethnicity, and body mass index. However, harmonizing tissue data across 25 organs and more than 15 bulk and spatial single-cell assay types poses challenges. Here, we present software tools and user interfaces developed to spatially and semantically annotate (“register”) and explore the tissue data and the evolving HRA. A key part of these tools is a common coordinate framework, providing standard terminologies and data structures for describing specimen, biological structure, and spatial data linked to existing ontologies. As of April 22, 2022, the “registration” user interface has been used to harmonize and publish data on 5,909 tissue blocks collected by the Human Biomolecular Atlas Program (HuBMAP), the Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions program (SPARC), the Human Cell Atlas (HCA), the Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP), and the Genotype Tissue Expression project (GTEx). Further, 5,856 tissue sections were derived from 506 HuBMAP tissue blocks. The second “exploration” user interface enables consortia to evaluate data quality, explore tissue data spatially within the context of the HRA, and guide data acquisition. A companion website is at https://cns-iu.github.io/HRA-supporting-information/.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1369
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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