New Technology Could Advance Precision Medicine for Cancer, Neurological Disorders

The new method indexes thousands of cells simultaneously and could potentially improve understanding of various diseases at a molecular level.

Scientists have discovered a potential new method that could advance the development of precision medicine and provide researchers with insight into disease at the molecular level, according to a study published in Nature Biotechnology.

The new technology, developed by researchers from Oregon Health and Science University, can quickly and efficiently recognize the subtypes of cells within the body for the first time.

According to the study, the method builds on a previously known method for profiling cell types distinguished by the pattern of chemical markers studding their DNA, but allows the researchers to profile thousands of cells simultaneously. To do this, the method adds unique DNA sequence combinations or indexes to each cell that are read out by a sequencing instrument. In the study, the researchers used the indexing method on several human cell lines and from a mouse brain to reveal the methylome of 3282 single cells.

The method is roughly a 40-fold increase in throughput from the existing method of single-cell sequencing, the researchers noted. According to the researchers, the technology could lead to the development of precise treatments for conditions such as cancer, disorders that destroy neurons in the brain, and diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels.

“It will be incredibly valuable in any environment where there is a cell type heterogeneity [diversity],” Andrew Adey, PhD, senior author, said in a press release. “The major areas of interest will be cancer and neuroscience, but we are also applying it to cardiovascular disease.”

Because of its ability to index thousands of cells at the same time, the method has potential to reduce costs, according to the authors.

“This technology reduces the cost to prepare single-cell DNA methylation libraries to less than 50 cents per cell from $20 to $50 per cell,” Dr Adey said in the press release.

Reference

Adey AC, Mulqueen RM, Pokholok D, et al. Highly scalable generation of DNA methylation profiles in single cells. Nature Biotechnology. 2018. Doi: 10.1038/nbt.4112

An advance for precision medicine [news release]. Portland. OSHU’s website. https://news.ohsu.edu/2018/04/09/an-advance-for-precision-medicine. Accessed April 11, 2018.