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Protein map is an open resource for health research

Life Science

Published Nov 06, 2014

A decade after the completion of the blueprint of the human genome, the Human Protein Atlas program on Thursday launched a tissue-based atlas covering the genome's protein complement. Based on 13 million annotated images, an interactive database has been created to show the distribution of proteins in all major tissues and organs in the human body.

The Human Protein Atlas has 13 million annotated images.

At a press event on the KTH campus, the Human Protein Atlas project unveiled an open source tissue-based interactive map of the human proteome. The Atlas maps for the first time the human proteins in all major organs and tissues, showing both proteins restricted to certain tissues, such as the brain, heart, or liver, and those present in all.

A multinational project involving KTH  Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University, the Atlas is expected to be an invaluable source of knowledge for researchers worldwide, particularly in human health since the vast majority of drugs on the market are designed against proteins. As an open access resource, it is expected to help accelerate the development of new diagnostics and drugs to benefit humanity. 

Mathias Uhlén, Professor of Microbiology at KTH and the director of the Human Protein Atlas program

“This is a truly exciting moment to be able to launch this resource to the scientific community”, says Mathias Uhlén, Professor of Microbiology at KTH and the director of the Human Protein Atlas program.

Uhlén says that the Atlas is free to use with completely unrestricted access and provides “detailed lists of proteins located to the different parts of the human body”.

“The combination of several omics technologies has allowed us to map proteins down to the single cell level in a team of multi-disciplinary expertise spanning biotechnology, IT, and medicine,” Uhlén says.

It has taken a team of scientists and IT engineers more than 1,000 man years to produce an interactive database containing 13 million annotated images. Today, more than 100 scientists work in this project, bringing together competence from many different research areas. The interactive database is aimed at researchers interested in human biology as well as researchers working in the field of translational medicine.

Leading up to today’s launch, the Human Protein Atlas team has produced more than 300 peer-reviewed publications during the last 10 years. Today’s release is accompanied with a poster in the journal Science (published on November 7), complemented with a digital version of the poster at the Human Protein Atlas portal .

About the Human Protein Atlas project

The Human Protein Atlas project, funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, has been set up to allow for a systematic exploration of the human proteome using Antibody-Based Proteomics. This is accomplished by combining high-throughput generation of affinity-purified antibodies with protein profiling in a multitude of tissues and cells assembled in tissue microarrays. Confocal microscopy analysis using human cell lines is performed for more detailed protein localization. The program hosts the Human Protein Atlas portal with expression profiles of human proteins in tissues and cells. The main sites are located at AlbaNova and SciLifeLab, KTH - Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, the Rudbeck Laboratory, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden and Lab Surgpath, Mumbai, India. For more information on the Human Protein Atlas, visit

Human Protein Atlas in Nature

Earlier this year (May 29), Nature published a thematic issue called “The Human Proteome” with three articles announcing various international efforts to describe the protein complements of the genome, including an article describing the Swedish-based Protein Atlas effort and its plan to release a first draft based on transcriptomics and protein profiling. Read the Nature article here.