The finding, which is detailed in the current edition of the journal Nature Methods, represents the first use of any next-generation genomic analysis platform for a hypothesis-neutral, genome-wide survey of expressed genes in individual cells.
This proprietary research method has the potential to reveal details about cell fate and can potentially accelerate the discovery of biomarkers for a variety of diseases, including cancer. The high sensitivity of the SOLiD System enabled the scientists to generate 75% more, or 5,270 more expressed genes with a single cell compared to microarray techniques. The researchers identified 1,753 novel splice junctions, which have never been detected by microarray techniques at single cell resolution.
Detailed characterizations of cell behaviour provide researchers a better understanding of how cells can be used in regenerative therapies for damaged cells and organs. By profiling expression patterns of genes, researchers can obtain a more accurate view of the transcriptome by cell or tissue type, which can result in a better understanding of the nature of diseased cells, such as cancer stem cells, which play a key role in cancer recurrence and tumour metastasis. Cancer researchers typically challenged by only being able to obtain tiny amounts of RNA from biological samples can utilize the SOLiD System to generate detailed gene expression profiles from the trace amounts of RNA present in single cell and cancer samples.
Kai Lao, Ph.D., Applied Biosystems principal scientist:
“With this significant finding, researchers will have more confidence adopting sequencing-based experiments that will accelerate the understanding of the biological basis of complex diseases, such as cancer. As scientists gain a greater understanding of stem cell behaviour, we will learn more about how these self-renewing cells contribute to these diseases.”
Azim Surani, Ph.D., Marshall-Walton Professor at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge:
“There are many instances where it is necessary to obtain comprehensive information from a few, or indeed, individual cells. This is essential for studies on early development at the start of cell fate decisions. Evidently, even the seemingly homogeneous cells, including stem cells, are in fact heterogeneous and their cell fate choices and responses to drugs are not identical. The gene expression profiling method we describe here will be very valuable for investigations in many areas of cell and developmental biology that are important for understanding the origin of human diseases."