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Single-cell analysis holds promise for stem cell and cancer research
Date:8/7/2014

UC San Francisco researchers have identified cells' unique features within the developing human brain, using the latest technologies for analyzing gene activity in individual cells, and have demonstrated that large-scale cell surveys can be done much more efficiently and cheaply than was previously thought possible.

"We have identified novel molecular features in diverse cell types using a new strategy of analyzing hundreds of cells individually," said Arnold Kriegstein, MD, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCSF. "We expect to use this approach to help us better understand how the complexity of the human cortex arises from cells that are spun off through cell division from stem cells in the germinal region of the brain."

The research team used technology focused on a "microfluidic" device in which individual cells are captured and flow into nano-scale chambers, where they efficiently and accurately undergo the chemical reactions needed for DNA sequencing. The research showed that the number of reading steps needed to identify and spell out unique sequences and to successfully identify cell types is 100 times fewer than had previously been assumed. The technology, developed by Fluidigm Corporation, can be used to individually process 96 cells simultaneously.

"The routine capture of single cells and accurate sampling of their molecular features now is possible," said Alex Pollen, PhD, who along with fellow Kriegstein-lab postdoctoral fellow Tomasz Nowakowski, PhD, conducted the key experiments, in which they analyzed the activation of genes in 301 cells from across the developing human brain. Their results were published online August 3 in Nature Biotechnology.

Kriegstein said the identification of hundreds of novel biomarkers for diverse cell types will improve scientists' understanding of the emergence of specialized neuronal subtypes. Ultimately, th
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Contact: Jeffrey Norris
jeffrey.norris@ucsf.edu
415-502-6397
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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