Understanding the human cell
Everything that happens in our bodies comes down to our cells. These trillions of specialized, microscopic building blocks allow our hearts to pump blood, our stomachs to digest our meals, our brains to process information. The cell is the fundamental unit of humanity and, when its internal workings go wrong, the source of disease. Yet we know so little about how the thousands of structures within a single cell come together to enable its incredible array of behaviors.
Our goal is to understand human cells in their entirety — not just one structure at a time — to explain and predict their behavior in health and disease. We create atlases of different cell states so that we can look at a cell and understand both its past and current states, as well as predict what it will do in the future. We work to uncover the principles of cellular organization, that is, how a cell maintains its dynamic 3D structure based on a one-dimensional string of DNA instructions. We study how cells transition between states so we can fully understand what drives development, cell division, differentiation and disease.
We use adult human stem cells to answer cell biology’s most pressing questions. In the course of our studies, we generate a growing collection of gene-edited stem cell lines that are fluorescently tagged to highlight different structures in the cell; these cells are available for the research community through the Allen Cell Collection. All our models, data, images, and other research tools are publicly available for the cell biology community on allencell.org.