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Helmsley Foundation Awards $13M in Grants for Gut Cell Atlas

NEW YORK — The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced today that it has awarded $13 million in grant funding to support the creation of a catalog of the various cell types that make up the large and small intestines.

The so-called Gut Cell Atlas will represent one part of the Human Cell Atlas, an international effort launched in 2016 to build a reference atlas of all human cell types using single-cell genomics and other technologies to produce 3D maps of how different cells function together in healthy and disease states.

According to the New York City-based foundation, recipients of the funding include researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of Edinburgh, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center who aim to study gene and protein expression and cellular localization in tissue from healthy individuals and those with Crohn's disease.

Other recipients include scientists from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven who are investigating the role of specific cell types in Crohn's disease; and collaborators from Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Zurich who are developing new technologies to study cellular behavior in inflammation.

"The Gut Cell Atlas will help us uncover what happens in the gut in health and disease and will also serve as a model for building other comprehensive organ system atlases," Wellcome Sanger Institute's Sarah Teichmann, a cofounder of the Human Cell Atlas initiative, said in a statement. 

The Helmsley Foundation said that it expects to award additional grants in support of the Gut Cell Atlas project. Among the other groups that have provided funding to the Human Cell Atlas include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council.

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