Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
RNAi
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Single-Cell Analysis Holds Promise for Stem Cell and Cancer Research

Published: Friday, August 08, 2014
Last Updated: Friday, August 08, 2014
Bookmark and Share
UCSF researchers use microfluidic technology to probe human brain development.

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, the 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 predict how they will develop.”

Joe Shuga, PhD, co-author on the paper and a senior scientist at Fluidigm Corporation, said the system developed by the company to routinely capture and prepare the cells for messenger-RNA sequencing yields more accurate reading of the sequences.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Longer Telomeres Linked to Risk of Brain Cancer
Findings can be viewed as a double-edged sword, gene variants may promote overall health while increasing risk of gliomas.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Scientific News
Advancing Synthetic Biology
Living systems rely on a dizzying variety of chemical reactions essential to development and survival. Most of these involve a specialized class of protein molecules — the enzymes.
NIH Researchers Identify Striking Genomic Signature for Cancer
Institute has identified striking signature shared by five types of cancer.
CRI Develops Innovative Approach for Identifying Lung Cancer
Institute has developed innovative approach for identifying processes that fuel tumor growth in lung cancer patients.
Counting Cancer-busting Oxygen Molecules
Researchers from the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), an Australian Research Centre of Excellence, have shown that nanoparticles used in combination with X-rays, are a viable method for killing cancer cells deep within the living body.
Crowdfunding the Fight Against Cancer
From budding social causes to groundbreaking businesses to the next big band, crowdfunding has helped connect countless worthy projects with like-minded people willing to support their efforts, even in small ways. But could crowdfunding help fight cancer?
Cancer Cells Kill Off Healthy Neighbours
Cancer cells create space to grow by killing off surrounding healthy cells, according to UK researchers working with fruit flies.
Cancer Drug Target Visualized at Atomic Resolution
New study using cryo-electron microscopy shows how potential drugs could inhibit cancer.
Genetic Mechanism Behind Cancer-Causing Mutations
Researchers at Indiana University has identified a genetic mechanism that is likely to drive mutations that can lead to cancer.
Future of Medicine Could be Found in a Tiny Crystal Ball
A Drexel University materials scientist has discovered a way to grow a crystal ball in a lab. Not the kind that soothsayers use to predict the future, but a microscopic version that could be used to encapsulate medication in a way that would allow it to deliver its curative payload more effectively inside the body.
"Gene Fusion" Drives Childhood Brain Cancers
Study co-led by Penn scientists highlights potential targets for future cancer therapies.
SELECTBIO

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!