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Laser-assisted single-cell genomics

2015 Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition
Genome Centre(s):
Génome Québec
Project Leader(s):
Santiago Costantino (Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont), Claudia L. Kleinman (McGill University)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Phase 1 Project

Single-cell genomics is a powerful new generation of technologies promising to transform our understanding of diseases where unique cells, hidden within millions of other cells, much like a needle in a haystack, play a major role. These cells are relevant for research in cancer, development, stem cell therapies and neurobiology. As opposed to genomic studies that can only describe the averaged behavior of an enormous number of cells, single-cell analyses allow researchers to understand cell-to-cell variation and to study the specific cells responsible for disease progression. However, a versatile, efficient and non-invasive technology to identify and capture these cells is lacking.

Santiago Costantino, PhD, of Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont is developing a method that enables instant, specific tagging of living cells using the same instrument used for imaging. With his team’s approach, it is possible to label cells with a laser, based on a broad variety of criteria chosen by the investigator at the time of observation. Laser tags last for days, enabling labeled cells to be tracked, captured and individually analyzed.

The approach is simple, low cost, and can be easily incorporated into cutting-edge technologies for single-cell genomics. With this novel technology, a wide array of experiments will be possible. Examples include the analysis of gene expression of cells chosen based on how fast they move, what they are in contact with, or the distance to a specific point, such as the tumour-normal cell interface. Santiago Costantino will demonstrate this potential with a study designed to, for the first time, identify micro-environmental signals produced by liver cells that promote breast cancer progression to the metastatic stage.