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Using Single Cells To Get the Whole Picture of the Epigenome

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Using Single Cells To Get the Whole Picture of the Epigenome

Article by Kristopher Simonyi, Bio-Rad.

Genes may determine what characteristics are passed down from parent to offspring, but each cell expresses these genes differently based on “external” epigenetic modifications.

Epigenetics don’t alter the gene sequence (genotype), but they do influence cell behavior and function (phenotype). The study of epigenetics helps us understand how phenotypic changes lead to disease, stem cell differentiation, and essentially, what drives the fate of every cell in the human body. The epigenome is not consistent between cells, or even between cells of the same type. Individual modifications come and go throughout a cell’s lifetime. Therefore, scientists are faced with the steep challenge as they try to decipher the role of epigenetics in disease and development.[i] Understanding intercellular heterogeneity is key here. The epigenome must be examined at single-cell resolution. Now, with the advancement of single-cell sequencing methods like the single-cell assay for transposase accessible chromatin (scATAC-seq), researchers have access to sophisticated techniques to map large cell populations, one cell at a time. The resulting epigenomic information provides unprecedented insight into the different cell types that come together to form organs and organ systems, as well as pathogenic modifications associated with disease. […]

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