Improved single-cell ATAC-seq method scales up research into how genes are controlled

phys.org | 6/24/2019 | Staff
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Scientists at Harvard University, collaborating with researchers at Bio-Rad Laboratories, have developed a new platform for rapid single-cell sequencing. The approach combines microfluidics and novel software to scale up single-cell ATAC-seq, which identifies parts of the genome that are open and accessible to regulatory proteins.

Published in Nature Biotechnology, the innovation signals a major acceleration in single-cell genomics research.

Sequencing

What is single-cell sequencing?

We all start out as a single cell, but quickly turn into trillions. The genome in that first cell is copied into all the rest—so how do we end up with so many different cell types? For many years, scientists have been trying to figure out how genes are turned on and off in different cells at different times in their development, so that cells can carry out specific functions.

Single-cell - Sequencing - Area - Research - Scientists

Single-cell sequencing has transformed this area of research, allowing scientists to study genes in individual cells, rather than large pieces of tissue. When studying cells in bulk, the collection might appear uniform but actually contains many different cell types. Because of this, results represent an average. They point researchers in a promising direction but do not give precise insights.

By allowing researchers to examine just one cell at a time, single-cell sequencing is redefining anatomy. It sifts through cells that appear similar on the surface, highlighting new cell types and vastly improving the ability to find individual genes that drive healthy functions or disease processes in the body.

Study - Researchers - Type - ATAC-seq - Assay

In this study, researchers focused on a type of sequencing called ATAC-seq (Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin using sequencing). Each human cell contains two meters of DNA, tightly packed into the microscopic nucleus. ATAC-seq identifies which parts of the DNA are unwound and accessible to proteins.

"It's a bit like opening up a multidimensional suitcase to get at the clothes," said Fabiana Duarte, co-lead author of the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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