HuBMAP scientists have developed a new strategy for “anchoring” different types of experimental data that each shed light on only part of a cell’s identity to enable a global view of activities in that cell. Scientists from the New York Genome Center and New York University have used this strategy to knit together data on the production of specific proteins with an atlas of which genes are active in different tissues. The method could transform the depth and breadth of information researchers use to understand organ function at the smallest scales.
While many new methods are allowing scientists to look at cellular function at the smallest levels, these methods do not measure all important factors in a comparable way. In one example highlighting the anchoring strategy, the New York team harmonized signals detected by two experimental methods called scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq. scRNA-seq measures the amount of mRNA molecules—the messengers that relay a gene’s instructions to the machinery that produces proteins—in a single cell. scATAC-seq measures what positions in the protein covering of a cell’s chromosomes have “opened up” to expose the DNA for specific genes to become active. By connecting the two, the scientists were able to leverage the unique characteristics of each method to gain a more comprehensive view of cellular states in the mouse brain. In addition to helping scientists draw information from these biological data accurately, the anchor strategy introduces a novel general framework that enables the transfer of information across distinct single-cell experiments.
This work was funded by award number 1OT2OD026673-01 through the NIH Common Fund HuBMAP initiative. You can find their June 2019 report in the journal Cell here.