DEC 18, 2016 08:21 PM PST

Gene Profiling Breaks Down Decisions Made in the Immune System

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

How do lymphocytes make the decision to launch an attack or act otherwise? Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science were interested in answering this question and more, using a combination of two technologies to answer questions long asked about how cells send signals and make decisions.

Source: Digital Trends

The new combination of technologies can manipulate and understand cause and effect with the upmost precision and speed. “A single experiment with this method may be equal to thousands of experiments conducted using previous approaches,” the scientists said.

Researchers started with CRISPR gene editing technology, which was first discovered in bacteria. The microbes were found to be using it for their own protection against viruses, essentially “cutting and pasting” viral DNA into their own genomes so they would recognize their foes when they encountered them more than once.  

Study leader Ido Amit, PhD and his lab have been working on the development of single-cell RNA sequencing, the second piece to the puzzle. This form of genomic profiling involves sequencing messenger RNA molecules from each individual cell. Messenger RNA sequences provide clues as to the cell’s activity in a certain tissue. Amit and his lab combined their RNA sequencing technology with known CRISPR techniques to discover unique cell functions in groups of cells, a combination with Amit called “a new molecular microscope.”

The discovery of novel cell variations showed Amid and his team how and why immune cells of the same type sometimes function differently depending on what tissue they were found in. The new technology allowed the team of scientists to make changes as well as observations, with one gene change able to make a monumental difference in a cell’s function.

“By linking cells with similar behaviors, something like the algorithms Netflix uses to group people who like similar movies, we were able to identify previously unrated functions for many genes,” said leading author Assaf Weiner, who designed the algorithms used in their studies.

They tested their technology in mice immune cells, studying their activity as they dealt with pathogenic invasions. Like looking under the hood of a car to understand how the engine works, scientists could observe immune cell activity and contemplate making changes to either modify or improve the cells’ activity.

Based on their findings and past studies, Amit and his team believed that neither CRISPR nor single-cell RNA sequencing on its own could have produced the results that they did in their study.

The findings from their study were published in the journal Cell.

Source: Weizmann Institute of Science  

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 01, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 01, 2018
Digging Into the Details of DNA Replication
Cells have to carry around a huge amount of genetic material, and usually that DNA is about 1000 times longer than the cell where it lives....
NOV 06, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 06, 2018
New Gene is Implicated in a Rare Cancer
Rodents are known as common research models, but zebrafish have been gaining ground as an attractive alternative for many reasons....
NOV 27, 2018
Immunology
NOV 27, 2018
A Genetic Switch During Inflammation
Microglia, CNS immune cells, change their genetic profile during different states of the inflammation spectrum...
NOV 27, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
NOV 27, 2018
Why Screens can Interfere With Sleep
Most of us spend a lot of time looking at some type of screen, whether it's a laptop, a phone, or another device....
DEC 04, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 04, 2018
The Fallout From the First CRISPR Babies Continues
Last week the world was stunned to hear that twin babies had been born after a gene-editing experiment was conducted on human embryos....
DEC 05, 2018
Videos
DEC 05, 2018
Promising Results From Early Trials of Gene Therapy for Sickle Cell Anemia
More than 90,000 Americans and millions of people around the world have SCA....
Loading Comments...