New York, NY and Stockholm, Sweden -- A team of researchers affiliated with Ludwig Cancer Research and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden report in the current issue of Nature Methods a dramatically improved technique for analyzing the genes expressed within a single cell -- a capability of relevance to everything from basic research to future cancer diagnostics.
"There are cells in tumors and in healthy tissues that are not present in sufficient numbers to permit analysis using anything but single-cell methods," explains senior author, Rickard Sandberg, PhD. "This method allows us to identify rare and important subpopulations of cells in all sorts of tissues. We can also use it to tease apart, more rigorously than ever before, how the expression of unique suites of genes transform cells from one state to another as, say, an embryo develops into an organism, or a tumor becomes metastatic."
Traditional approaches, which depend on the collective analysis of gene expression in millions of cells at once, tend to obscure biologically significant differences in the genes expressed by specialized cells within a particular kind of tissue. Single-cell analysis of gene expression overcomes this limitation. The leading method for such analysis -- Smart-seq -- was developed in 2012 by the biotechnology firm Illumina, together with Sandberg's laboratory.
To develop the new technique, named Smart-seq2, Sandberg's team conducted more than 450 experiments to improve upon their initial method. The new procedure consistently captures three to four times as many RNA molecules, which often translates into 2,000 more genes per cell than current methods allow. It also captures far more full-length gene sequences, a steep challenge in such studies, which often capture only partial sequences of expressed genes
|Contact: Rachel Steinhardt|
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research