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ACD Achieves Two Major Milestones

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Advanced Cell Diagnostics (ACD) recently announced two major milestones for its RNAscope® RNA in situ hybridization technology. In just three years, over 100 peer-reviewed papers featuring the technology have been published, and with the significant increase in use of RNAscope, ACD has now built a library of over 4000 target probes for numerous species.

We spoke to Xiao-Jun Ma, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Diagnostics to learn more about RNA in situ hybridisation and some of the reasons RNAscope is gaining traction in the laboratory.  

AB: Can you tell me a little about the use of RNA in situ hybridisation (ISH) in single-cell transcriptomics?

Xiao-Jun Ma (X-JA): RNA ISH is complementary to single-cell transcriptomics such as single-cell RNA-seq. While single-cell transcriptomics has genome-wide scale, it interrogates only a limited number of single cells (10s to 100s at most). RNA ISH has limited multiplexing (currently up to 4 genes using fluorescent microscopy), but it can interrogate all cells on a single tissue section (>10,000 cells). More importantly, RNA ISH maintains the spatial relationship of single cells, whereas single-cell transcriptomics requires isolated single cells. As a result, RNA ISH is a natural downstream application for single-cell transcriptomic studies. 

AB: You report that you are seeing an average of 6 papers published per month, twice as many as last year, what do you see as the main reasons for this increase?

X-JA: The main reason is likely due to the increased market adoption of the RNAscope technology, driven by growing confidence in, and awareness of, the technology. The need has always been there.

AB: How does RNAscope assist researchers and why is it advantageous to detect up to 4 RNA species? 

X-JA: With RNAscope, researchers can visualize the expression of their genes of interest in single cells in their native context (i.e., without destructive tissue lysis/RNA extraction). This allows better understanding of cell-cell heterogeneity and interactions, information not attainable by conventional means of RNA analysis such as RT-PCR. The ability to detect up to 4 RNA species simultaneously provides a “molecular context” of gene expression – i.e., which genes are expressed together in the same cells (e.g., ligands and receptors) or how different cells expressing different genes are related to each other in space (e.g., stem cells/progenitors and differentiated cells).

AB: Why is in situ RNA analysis rarely used in the clinic, and how do you see RNAscope overcoming this?

X-JA: Despite the compelling benefits of in situ RNA analysis, major technical barriers have limited its use in the clinic or even in the research community thus far. Conventional RNA ISH is not sensitive enough to detect >90% of the expressed genes. Conventional RNA ISH is technically finicky and complex and thus difficult to master. RNAscope has single-molecule detection sensitivity with exceptional signal-to-noise ratio, overcoming the sensitivity barrier. RNAscope has a very streamlined single-day procedure and can be run fully automated on existing slide staining instruments, overcoming the technical complexity barrier and allowing seamless integration into clinical lab workflow and standardization.

More information can be found at acdbio.com.

Xiao-Jun Ma was speaking to Ashley Board, Managing Editor for Technology Networks. You can find Ashley on  and follow Technology Networks on Twitter.