Researchers at the New York Genome Center and New York University have developed a portable low-cost analysis device that can perform single-cell RNA sequencing. The researchers hope that the device will enable genetic sequencing at the bed-side to help identify cell types that can be targeted using specific drugs, and the device also has potential for basic research applications.
Single-cell sequencing holds enormous promise in helping researchers to understand disease and identify new and optimal treatments. However, at present, the technique typically requires expensive equipment that can be difficult to use. To address this issue, the New York researchers developed a low-cost alternative, which relies on 3D printing and an inexpensive microfluidic controller. The device is the size of a box of tissues and costs approximately $600, which is a small fraction of the price of larger commercial systems.
“Most commercial microfluidic instruments are very costly; as a result, not every lab has access to exciting technology for single-cell analysis,” said William Stephenson, a researcher involved in the study. “We designed the instrument to perform droplet microfluidics and in particular Drop-seq, a massively parallel technology for single cell RNA-sequencing.”
To test the device, the researchers profiled cells from joint synovial tissue from five patients with rheumatoid arthritis. As the device is portable, the team was able to process the samples on-site, immediately after the patients had undergone surgery, meaning that transport and storage of the samples was not required.
“Roughly an hour after surgical excision, individual cells from patient tissues were labeled for single-cell sequencing. From this work, we have classified unrecognized fibroblast subtypes that may prove to be important drug targets for our RA patients,” said Laura Donlin, lead author on the study.
The research team has made the instructions and assembly manuals for the device freely available, to allow other researchers to use it. “We hope that this instrument lowers the hurdles associated with performing single-cell transcriptome profiling experiments in basic research and clinical settings,” said Stephenson.
Study in Nature Communications: Single-cell RNA-seq of rheumatoid arthritis synovial tissue using low-cost microfluidic instrumentation…