Improve your understanding of immunity
The immune system plays a major role in several illnesses such as infectious diseases, auto-immune diseases, and cancer. Therefore, understanding and charting it is important for the development of vaccines and immuno-oncological therapies.
However, the immune system is highly complex and challenging to study. Commonly used technologies such as microscopy are great for mapping tissue composition, but these methods limit analysis to a few genes.
Single-cell sequencing overcomes these limitations and allows you to study the immune system to higher levels of complexity.
Identify immune cell types
Immune cells are present in many tissue types and play a crucial role in their homeostasis and microenvironment.
Scientists typically use flow cytometry to distinguish between immune cells based on their cell surface proteins.
However, this fails to take into account the intrinsic, molecular characteristics of the cell and therefore we can't further differentiate between cells with the same cell surface markers.
But with single-cell sequencing, you can combine the detection of cell surface marker mRNA molecules with whole-transcriptome gene expression at a single-cell level.
The combination of cell surface markers and gene expression allows you to detect novel or rare sub-populations within each specific type of immune cell.
Identify antigen specificity
Antigen specificity is crucial in understanding the adaptive immune response, and single-cell sequencing allows you to determine antigen specificity at a single-cell level.
This can be combined with gene expression to understand the molecular pathways within the cell.
A good example of how this can be used is to further characterize immune cell populations or as a high-throughput method for antibody discovery.
Discover the drivers of the immune response
The combination of both cell surface markers and gene expression doesn't just allow the identification of specific cell-types.
It also lets you dive deeper into the gene expression data and identify which genes drive the immune response in a specific situation, for example after drug treatment or other events that trigger an immune response.
Combined with accurate cell type information, this helps determine if and how each cell type reacts to a particular treatment.
And so much more...
Besides the three applications discussed here, there are many more applications of single-cell sequencing in the immunology field.
For example, these could be comparing the microenvironment across tissues, reconstructing immune cell differentiation, or assessing immunity in cancer.
Explore other research areas
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