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Nat Biotechnol. 2016 Nov 8;34(11):1145-1160. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3711.

Revealing the vectors of cellular identity with single-cell genomics.

Author information

1
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Center for Computational Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA.
2
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
3
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
4
Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Abstract

Single-cell genomics has now made it possible to create a comprehensive atlas of human cells. At the same time, it has reopened definitions of a cell's identity and of the ways in which identity is regulated by the cell's molecular circuitry. Emerging computational analysis methods, especially in single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), have already begun to reveal, in a data-driven way, the diverse simultaneous facets of a cell's identity, from discrete cell types to continuous dynamic transitions and spatial locations. These developments will eventually allow a cell to be represented as a superposition of 'basis vectors', each determining a different (but possibly dependent) aspect of cellular organization and function. However, computational methods must also overcome considerable challenges-from handling technical noise and data scale to forming new abstractions of biology. As the scale of single-cell experiments continues to increase, new computational approaches will be essential for constructing and characterizing a reference map of cell identities.

PMID:
27824854
PMCID:
PMC5465644
DOI:
10.1038/nbt.3711
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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