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

e combination of this new method of focusing on gene activity in single cells with other single-cell techniques involving microscopic imaging is likely to reveal the origins of developmental disorders of the brain, he added.

The process could shed light on several brain disorders, including lissencephaly, in which the folds in the brain's cortex fail to develop, as well as maladies diagnosed later in development, such as autism and schizophrenia, Kriegstein said.

According to the Nature Biotechnology study co-authors, this strategy of analyzing molecules in single cells is likely to find favor not only among researchers who explore how specialized cells arise at specific times and locations within the developing organism, but also among those who monitor cell characteristics in stem cells engineered for tissue replacement, and those who probe the diversity of cells within tumors to identify those responsible for survival and spread of cancerous cells.

No matter how pure, in any unprocessed biological sample there are a variety of cells representing various tissue types. Researchers have been sequencing the combined genetic material within these samples. To study which genes are active and which are dormant, they use the brute repetition of sequencing steps to capture an adequate number of messenger RNA sequences, which are transcribed from switched-on genes. However, it is difficult to conclude from mixed tissue samples which genes are expressed by particular cell types.

Pollen and Nowakowski showed that fewer steps and less time and money are needed to distinguish different cell types through single-cell analysis than had previously been thought.

"We are studying an ecosystem of different, but related, cell types in the brain," Pollen said. "We are breaking that community down into the different populations of cells with the goal of understanding their functional parts and components so we can accurately pred
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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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