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An international team of researchers launched a new program on October 14 that could have a profound impact on expediting future medical discoveries.

This initiative, known as the Human Cell Atlas, will unite laboratories from all over the world in an effort to form a comprehensive database describing every cell found in the human body, reported Reuters.

Previous research projects focusing on cellular knowledge were limited because scientists could only look at cellular composition under a microscope or perform genetic analysis of hundreds of thousands of clumped cells to find their average properties.

The human body contains about 200 distinct cell types, writes The Guardian. It could be a much higher number since parts of the body like the eye’s retina and immune system could have even twice that number.

New technological advances called single-cell genomics will help the researchers participating in this venture bypass this issue. They will be able to conduct detailed genetic analyses going cell by cell and organ to organ.

Some potential outcomes of this endeavor could include a full list of immune cells that could help drug developers create new autoimmune treatments, according to The Guardian.

“We believe that a successful description of all the cells in the healthy human body will impact almost every aspect of biology and medicine in the decades to come,” said Aviv Regev, Ph.D., a computational biologist at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and a participant in the program, said in a statement.

“We now have the tools to understand what we are composed of, which allows us to learn how our bodies work, and uncover how all these elements malfunction in disease. By creating this atlas through an open, international effort, we are building a new research tool for the whole community,” continued Regev.

The project could take about a decade to complete. You can learn more about the project here.

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