This new method can precisely detect gene activity and proteins in tissues

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian, and the New York Genome Center have developed a new method that can detect and identify the cells that are present in any organ or even in a tumor. To do so, the method targets specific activity patterns of genes and proteins while taking the location of these cells into account. Because of this, researchers and healthcare officials can now map organs or tumors based on the activity of cells under concern.  Dr. Dan Landau, the co-author of the paper and a member of the Weill Cornell Medicine and the New York Genome Center, said that this new technology is exciting as it will enable researchers to map organs and tumors based on cell types, gene activities, and the interaction of cells with the neighboring cells. 

This new technology has been developed with the collaborative effort of researchers and engineers. There are many similar technologies that researchers across the world have been using for gene profiling and gene mapping. But these processes have a significant limitation of not being able to map the exact location of cells in the tissue taken either from an organ or from a tumor. These available techniques of gene mapping require the isolation of cells through the dissolution of tissue or tumor samples. Once these cells are separated from other neighboring cells, it becomes easier to map their gene activity. But it also makes it almost impossible to map the exact location of these isolated cells, thus making it harder to analyze their cell patterns and their interaction with the neighboring cells. This is where the newly found technique of cell mapping shines as it allows analyzing the gene patterns and cell activities without having to isolate the cells from tissue or the tumor. This new location also allows the researchers to have a high-resolution visualization of these cells under concern. 

The researchers involved in this development have named this new technique as Spatial PrOtein and Transcriptome Sequencing or SPOTS. It is developed from the available technology developed by 10x Genomics, a leading company in gene sequencing. This method mainly targets the mRNA molecules and spatial binding proteins that are released by cells to interact with the neighboring cells. It does so while keeping exact track of the locations of these cells on tissue samples. After napping the tissue or tumor sample, it can also be coupled with the pathology results. During the test analysis where the researchers used SPOTS for analyzing the tissue samples obtained from the Mouse spleen. Through this test analysis, researchers were able to map the cell type, their function, and their precise location. These results are extremely useful for cancer research as it is a disease that includes rogue cells which developed genetic growth, causing them to grow uncontrollably. This was demonstrated by the SPOTS team which analyzed the tumor samples obtained from mice with breast cancer. Through this analysis, researchers were able to map the macrophages and their protein markers, which are released as a defense mechanism against cancer.