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Broad Institute, MGH researchers chart cellular complexity of brain tumors
Date:6/12/2014

Scientists from the Broad Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have conducted a first-of-its-kind study that characterizes the cellular diversity within glioblastoma tumors from patients. The study, which looked at the expression of thousands of genes in individual cells from patient tumors, revealed that the cellular makeup of each tumor is more heterogeneous than previously suspected. The findings, which appear online in Science Express, will help guide future investigations into potential treatments for this devastating disease.

This is the first time a large-scale census of the individual cells residing in these brain tumors has been taken. Researchers were previously aware that the cells within a human tumor were not all the same they could have different mutations in their genome and possibly express genes differently and it is suspected that this diversity may contribute to drug resistance and disease recurrence. But until now, it had been difficult to quantify the extent of this diversity.

To chart such differences, the researchers used a relatively new approach called single-cell transcriptomics, which allowed them to look at gene expression patterns in each of 430 individual cells from five patients' brain tumors. These patterns, which vary from cell to cell, show which genes are switched on and which are switched off in a given cell, revealing information about the cell's nature and function.

Previous studies of glioblastoma looked at the average expression of genes across millions of cells, which were slurried together in a single sample. In some cases, this type of sampling is used to classify glioblastoma tumors into one of four recognized cancer sub-types, based on the gene expression program that is most prevalent. By examining the gene expression patterns of many individual cells, one at a time, the team was able to get a finer picture of the cellular composition of the tumors. Their study rev
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Contact: Haley Bridger
hbridger@broadinstitute.org
617-714-7968
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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