The pancreas plays a crucial role in regulating our body's nutrient assimilation and homeostasis, yet its cellular makeup has been elusive to scientists, particularly during development and disease. But now, a groundbreaking effort by the Expression and Spatial Analysis Pancreas Atlas consortium (ESPACE) has provided a comprehensive cellular atlas of the human pancreas, offering unparalleled insights into the identity and behavior of pancreatic cells in both health and disease.
ESPACE, a European Pancreas Atlas Initiative, has created a unique resource comprising transcriptomic and chromatin accessibility profiling of over 1 million single cells from 57 individuals, using advanced single-cell sequencing technologies such as droplet-based snRNA-seq, scRNA-seq, and scATAC-seq. In addition, full mRNA profiling with VASA-seq and spatial proteomics via CODEX multiplexed immunohistochemistry was used to provide a holistic view of the cellular landscape of the pancreas.
The ESPACE atlas includes healthy and diseased tissues, spanning from fetal developmental stages to adulthood, providing invaluable resources to characterize exocrine cell plasticity and the less-explored acinar cell diversity, with important implications for pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis. The dataset also includes both frozen and cultured pancreatic islets, from healthy donors and donors with type 2 diabetes, allowing the team to define a consensus of endocrine cell-type markers and gene regulatory networks currently lacking in the field.
The study is still ongoing, but the team is confident that their resource will be of great interest to the scientific community and will catalyze the development of new strategies for treating pancreatic diseases.
To learn more about the ESPACE project, watch this video of a talk given by a member of the consortium at the Human Cell Atlas Latin America meeting last October: https://youtu.be/_GgjLCmU7ds.