A World Within: Mapping the Body’s Social Network

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Carly Ziegler, Shaina Carroll, Leslie Kean, Alex Shalek

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Carly Ziegler, Shaina Carroll, Leslie Kean, Alex Shalek
Institute for Medical Engineering & Science and Koch Institute at MIT

As the key player translating DNA code into cellular action, RNA provides important insight into cells’ past, present, and future.

Shalek Lab researchers have sequenced the RNA expression of 45,782 single cells from 14 different organs to create an atlas of healthy cell physiology for reference in studies of various disease states including HIV and cancer. The team uses machine learning to map the relationships (lines) between the various subpopulations of cells (dots). Each color signifies a different tissue of origin; together, they present a broad spectrum of cell behavior.

Color guide - Grey: central nervous system, red: bone marrow, dark brown: colon, light brown: ileum, green: liver, pink: lung, dark grey: peripheral blood, purple: spleen, sky blue: thymus, yellow: tonsil, shades of blue and turquoise: lymph nodes.

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Carly Ziegler shares the story behind her image at the exhibit opening ceremony on March 20, 2019.