DEEP-IN-CELL is funded by the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator.
The Power of Single-cell
Decoding DNA and RNA (the product of gene activation) is absolutely crucial to uncover the function of a cell, its inner mechanisms, and its role in disease development. Being able to sequence such genetic material has been the basis of the entire field of genomics for decades, and the arrival of single-cell technologies has shaken up the field tremendously. Such technologies are called “single-cell” as – for the first time – they offer single-cell resolution for DNA and RNA sequencing.
Before single-cell technologies, cells of interest were investigated in “bulk” – meaning the DNA or RNA from thousands or tens of thousands of cells were extracted simultaneously. However, not all cells function the same way – and the resulting data is an average of the entire, very often heterogeneous, mixture of cells. What single-cell technology first enabled was genetic tagging for each individual cell, meaning researchers could now identify cell types from one another, whether they were blood cells, immune system cells, or cancer cells.
Its impact on biological sciences is staggering. Scientists have been sequencing RNA in entire organs as complex as the brain at single-cell resolution, creating “atlases” that map and link cells, RNA, and biological functions previously misunderstood. In morphologically similar biological tissues, they uncovered sub-regions of cells using different genes for different purposes. Very rare cells (with an incidence rate of 1 in 1000s or 1 in 10,000s cells), previously invisible in “bulk” methodologies, are now displaying a critical role in the development and regulation of biological tissues. For example, disease progression can be more cautiously monitored by measuring the proportions and stages of cancer cells in a tumor from the RNA identified. The life cycles of cells are also being explored deeper than ever by sequencing the RNA from each cell at separate differentiation stages. And this non-exhaustive list is only the beginning.
However, current single-cell solutions show limited performances, and critical rare cells and poorly expressed genes may be overlooked. Consequently, single-cell research is not yet exploiting its full potential and many opportunities for detecting rare events with clinical importance such as biomarkers or drug targets are missed.
Beyond Asteria and Cytonaut
Scipio bioscience has developed and commercialized a revolutionary hydrogel-based single-cell RNA-seq kit, Asteria™ (launched in Q2 2022) that can be used directly at any lab bench by scientists at times of need, eliminating barriers from existing technologies.
The RevGel™ hydrogel technology has already proven its unique advantages by enabling researchers to immediately process fresh samples without resorting to the usual compromises of freezing or fixing cells, which trigger changes in gene expression and alter the transcriptome. Moreover, the hydrogel acting as a gentle physical barrier to separate cells from each other also removes the source of genetic stress and the shearing risks from the mechanical and squeezing pressure in microfluidic-based technologies.
So far, RevGel has only been applied to scRNA-seq experiments, isolating the mRNA strands from sample cells for sequencing at the single-cell resolution. But the potential of the RevGel technology is far higher, from its ability to gently handle mammalian cells of even larger sizes, its molecule-capturing technology, and the porosity of its hydrogel allowing diffusion of small molecules while retaining larger ones. Capturing mRNAs was just the start.
Shooting for the stars
The DEEP-IN-CELL project is a major overhaul of our kit-based technology and will reach an unprecedented level of sensitivity and precision for the detection of highly significant single-cell events, while vastly improving versatility.
The adoption of single-cell technologies is still hindered by accessibility and efficiency hurdles, so the time is right to bring new, game-changing competition addressing these issues and take the lead in benchtop technologies for single-cell studies.
With immediate benefits for cancer and other applications of clinical importance, DEEP-IN-CELL will diversify the use of this hydrogel technology across multiple single-cell-omics platforms and enable spatial analysis
Deep-In-Cell aims to address these issues thereby having a major impact on research, permitting patients with cancer or other life-threatening diseases to access the most relevant and beneficial care.
If you are interested to learn more about DEEP-IN-CELL and its purposes, you are invited to send us a message through our contact page and we will be in touch with you shortly.
This project has received funding for two years from the European Union’s EIC Accelerator 2022 under grant agreement n°190178154.