Better treatment and diagnosis of cancer could hinge on the ability to better understand a single cell at its molecular level as why a cell will or won't become cancerous. New research offers a more comprehensive way of analyzing one cell's unique behavior, using an array of colors to show patterns of the cell.
A University of Washington team has developed a new method for color-coding cells that allows them to illuminate 100 biomarkers, a ten-time increase from the current research standard, to help analyze individual cells from cultures or tissue biopsies. The work is published this week (March 19) in Nature Communications.
"Discovering this process is an unprecedented breakthrough for the field," said corresponding author Xiaohu Gao, a UW associate professor of bioengineering. "This technology opens up exciting opportunities for single-cell analysis and clinical diagnosis."
The research builds on current methods that use a smaller array of colors to point out a cell's biomarkers – characteristics that indicate a special, and potentially abnormal or diseased, cell. Ideally, scientists would be able to test for a large number of biomarkers, then rely on the patterns that emerge from those tests to understand a cell's properties.
The UW research team has created a cycle process that allows scientists to test for up to 100 biomarkers in a single cell. Before, researchers could only test for 10 at a time.