Our body is made up of trillions of cells belonging to thousands of different cell types, which are specialized to carry out various tasks to keep us alive. While we tend to think of our organs as units which are responsible for particular functions, they are not homogeneous at all. Instead, they are made up of many specialized cells which all contribute to the roles of the organ. For example, we often talk about brain cells, but in fact the brain is made up of many cell types. By brain cells we generally mean neurons, but there are numerous types of neurons each of them having unique characteristics. Each cell type behaves differently and certain diseases are the results of the malfunctioning of distinct cell types.
Single-cell RNA sequencing combines high-throughput sequencing and microfluidics, allowing us to observe changes in individual cells. By that, we can tell, for example, if a response is caused by all cells in a tissue or if it comes from a small group of cells. Single-cell RNA sequencing is currently being used to answer questions such as: What cells are responsible for a disease ? Which cells are most affected by a certain treatment ? How tumour progression happens at a cellular level ? What stages of differentiation do cells go through [4,5]? By answering these questions we hope to be able to understand how diseases develop and how we can produce drugs which target the diseased cells more specifically.
Our lab is currently analyzing single-cell RNA sequencing data of cancer patients. We are performing cell-typing, differential gene expression analysis and clonotyping. We are hoping to learn what cells are affected by treatment, the specificity of treatment and how it activates the immune system. Our results may help improving upon existing treatment options.