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Human Gonad Developmental Cell Atlas

Project description

Cell atlas of human gonad development and sex determination

The ultimate goal of the EU-funded HUGODECA project is to describe cellular organisation and the development of human gonads for better understanding of the mechanisms that trigger differentiation and divergence during sex determination into testes in males and ovaries in females. The project consortium involves leading academic and industrial experts from five EU countries, including active contributors and executives of the Human Cell Atlas initiative. The research will implement novel tools and analytical and computational methods, including single-cell profiling, spatial transcriptomics, 2D mass cytometry and cyclic immunofluorescence, and 3D imaging of optically cleared gonads to process and integrate data across different platforms. The project will be focused on the development of healthy gonadal development in ex vivo culture models and will assess consequences of altering key signalling pathways mimicking disorders of sex development.


The single ground-breaking goal of the HUGODECA project is to describe the cellular composition and organization of the developing human gonads and to understand how it changes during sex determination into testes in males and ovaries in females. What are the underlying mechanisms and first molecular and cellular events that accompany the differentiation and divergence of embryonic gonads? How and when do male and female cell lineages diverge and specific traits emerge? HUGODECA focuses on healthy gonad development, but our reference model will be tested using specific ex vixo assays mimicking Differences/Disorders of Sex Development (DSD).
To reach this ambitious goal, the HUGODECA consortium brings together leading European academic and industrial experts (from 5 different EU countries). It includes active contributors and executives of the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) which will ensure complementarity with other ongoing HCA efforts.
The overall HUGODECA concept is grounded on the integration of multiple synergistic expertise and technologies: Single cell profiling, Spatial transcriptomics, 2D Mass cytometry and cyclic immunofluorescence and 3D imaging of optically cleared gonads. HUGODECA will implement novel tools, analytical and computational methods to process and integrate multidimensional OMICS and image data across different platforms. It will evaluate the accuracy of ex vivo culture models of human gonadal development and assess consequences of altering key signaling pathways.
HUGODECA will build the first multiscale developmental cell atlas and unprecedented reference maps of male and female human gonads. It will implement an interactive and multi-dimensional online portal for clinicians, scientists and public including DSD patient associations. HUGODECA shall improve our understanding of DSD, which is a major pediatric concern, requiring complex and highly specialized medical treatment and psychosocial care.

Call for proposal


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Sub call



Net EU contribution
€ 1 886 998,00
75654 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 886 998,75

Participants (9)