Single Cell Analysis Reveals New Horizons, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, July
2014 pg 12-16. R.A. Stein (GENengnews.com)
The advantages of single cells analysis are described as it pertains to a number of technologies including flow cytometry, in particular the work of Ian Cheeseman, staff scientist at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. He uses flow cytometry to identify red blood cells that are infected with a parasite.
Historically, the vast majority of experimental studies that have scrutinized biological phenomena have done so by surveying populations of cells. While it is expedient, this approach has a significant shortcoming—it yields measurements that reflect population averages. Such measurements say little or nothing about individual cells.
Nevertheless, it is possible to visualize variability at the single-cell level, even in genetically identical cells grown under identical conditions. This kind of variability becomes relevant in many contexts including cancer evolution, resistance to antimicrobial or chemotherapeutic agents, cell differentiation, and virus-host interactions.
Increasingly, scientists are exploiting advances in biotechnology to assess cell-to-cell variability. Indeed, they are already using single-cell approaches to enrich their understanding of biological processes. Single-cell approaches are even driving a conceptual shift, a reassessment of the notions that have accumulated about cellular and molecular processes. Because these processes shape development and disease, a deeper understanding of them promises to powerfully impact diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.
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