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Cell Count

On a broad level, there are about a hundred different cell types, NPR reports. However, it adds that when you dig in, there are lots more: There are thought to be more than 300 different types of immune cells, for instance. Researchers led by the Broad Institute's Aviv Regev and the Wellcome Sanger Institute's Sarah Teichmann formed the Human Cell Atlas Consortium to take a census of cells within the human body, it adds.

They've already found new ones, NPR reports. As Regev and her colleagues reported in Nature earlier this month, they found seven types of cells in the airway epithelium rather than the expected six using single-cell RNA-sequencing. This finding, they added, could have implications for cystic fibrosis as this cell type produces the CFTR protein. Relatedly, Teichmann and her colleagues reported in Science last week that pediatric kidney cancer tends to start in different cells than adult kidney cancer.

"There is nothing more remarkable than the cell," Regev tells NPR. "It's the basic unit of life. It cannot be reduced to anything simpler — not the DNA, not the genes. It's this phenomenal entity that knows how to take many different pieces of information, make very quick and sophisticated decisions, act on them and continue on its way."