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Single-cell analysis

In the field of cellular biology, single-cell analysis is the study of genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and cell–cell interactions at the single cell level. Due to the heterogeneity seen in both eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell populations, analyzing a single cell makes it possible to discover mechanisms not seen when studying a bulk population of cells. Technologies such as fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) allow the precise isolation of selected single cells from complex samples, while high throughput single cell partitioning technologies, enable the simultaneous molecular analysis of hundreds or thousands of single unsorted cells; this is particularly useful for the analysis of transcriptome variation in genotypically identical cells, allowing the definition of otherwise undetectable cell subtypes. The development of new technologies is increasing our ability to analyze the genome and transcriptome of single cells, as well as to quantify their proteome and metabolome. Mass spectrometry techniques have become important analytical tools for proteomic and metabolomic analysis of single cells. Recent advances have enabled quantifying thousands of protein across hundreds of single cells, and thus make possible new types of analysis. In situ sequencing and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) do not require that cells be isolated and are increasingly being used for analysis of tissues.

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