Uppsala University involved in a European initiative to map uterine cells

Cecilia Lindskog Bergström, Uppsala University

Cecilia Lindskog Bergström, Uppsala University

Photograph: David Naylor

By creating a visual map of uterine cells, researchers in four European countries will pave the way for new advances in women’s and maternity care. “We stand before a huge, inspiring task,” concludes Cecelia Lindskog Bergström, who is leading the project at Uppsala University.

Work to map the cells of the human uterus has now begun. Researchers at Uppsala University have a central position in the international consortium which expects to be able to present a tool within two years that should have enormous significance for women’s and maternity care.

“Our project, the Human Uterus Cell Atlas (HUTER), is one of six European initiatives which, with support from the EU framework programme Horizon 2020, was chosen to contribute to the global Human Cell Atlas initiative aiming to create a map of all cells of the human body. For us, this is a huge and inspiring assignment that gives us the opportunity to leverage our experience from the Human Protein Atlas project,” says Cecilia Lindskog Bergström, project manager at Uppsala University’s Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

HUTER will include collection and analysis of biological samples from prepubescent age through the end of menopause. Material will also be included from all phases of the menstrual cycle, and from women with preeclampsia during pregnancy.

“The uterus is a unique organ in that it breaks down and is regenerated during each menstrual cycle. It’s also a relatively unexplored part of the human body. By mapping the entire process, we want to contribute to increasing knowledge of the functions of the uterus, and thus lay the foundation for developing new medications, more effective treatments for infertility and endometriosis, and reducing pregnancy and childbirth mortality rates.”

Picture from the Human Protein Atlas

The research group at Uppsala University will use antibodies to create the high-resolution images needed to identify where proteins are active in the uterine mucous membranes and musculature. The results of the work will be updated regularly and made public online, before ultimately being integrated into a digital portal that is planned within the framework of the Human Cell Atlas.

“If we’re successful, then we’ll be able to pave the way for important progress in reproductive health, obstetrics, gynaecology and several other areas in translational medicine. We’re facing a significant challenge, but I’m confident that our team and consortium possess all the expertise and experience necessary to create the visual reference map that we aim to make.”

FACTS HUMAN UTERUS CELL ATLAS (HUTER)

  • HUTER is a European collaboration aimed at creating a map of uterine cells, as part of the Human Cell Atlas initiative.
  • HUTER includes researchers in Sweden, Estonia, Spain and the UK.
  • HUTER is receiving EUR 4.1 million from Horizon 2020 for the period of 2020–2021.
  • Cecilia Lindskog Bergström is receiving EUR 650,000 from Horizon 2020 for work within HUTER.

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