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NDORMS researchers have been awarded funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to ensure that tendon samples from understudied ethnic groups are included in the Tendon Human Cell Atlas.

Montage of human faces © Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Tendons are essential for all forms of movement but are prone to inflammation and tears, causing pain and loss of mobility for patients. As part of an international partnership, NDORMS researchers have been mapping the cells present in healthy human tendons across anatomical sites in the body for over the past year. By creating a dataset for healthy tendon cell types to input into the Human Cell Atlas, they are developing a molecular map that will provide a resource to understand tendon disease and to advance treatments.

The team has recently been awarded additional funding by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative that ensures samples of tendon from ethnically underrepresented donors can be collected and mapped. The curation of an ethnically diverse database is fundamental to ensuring that future benefits are equitably distributed.

Sarah Snelling, Associate Professor at NDORMS and lead investigator of The Tendon Seed Network says: "This funding will allow us to build ethnic diversity into the Tendon Cell Atlas. By working with Prof Xavier Griffin (London) and Prof Chris Buckley (Birmingham/Oxford), we will expand the atlas to capture the cells present in the tendons of donors from underrepresented ethnic groups and ensure we deliver a robust cell atlas of tendon that better represents global populations."

A challenge for researchers has been the social and cultural barriers to participation found in different minority groups. "We will work with our patient involvement and engagement teams to better understand barriers to participation in research for minority ethnic groups and work with these communities to support their future participation," explained Dr Mathew Baldwin who is the clinical co-lead on the project.

Their goal is to collect healthy tendon tissue samples from Asian and Black patients, ensuring that over one third of the anatomical tendon sites profiled by the Tendon Seed Network will be from donors from ethnically understudied populations.

Norbert Tavares, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Program Manager for Single-Cell Biology, said: "It is critical to include diverse tissue samples in the Human Cell Atlas so we can learn and grow from historical shortcomings and bias in genomics. While this effort is only the start of addressing diversity in the Human Cell Atlas in the long term, these projects will serve as an initial pilot to surface future opportunities to more deeply address these challenges for the future."

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