An international team of researchers led by scientists from China has for the first time released panoramic spatial atlases of life that could help to better understand diseases, aging, and biological evolution.
Several studies were conducted by members of STOC, an open collaborative research consortium, to produce these high-definition spatiotemporal cellular maps. The team made use of Stereo-seq, a transcriptomics technology developed by China’s BGI Research.
This new technology makes it a lot easier to produce spatiotemporal maps than ever before. Papers released by the scientists show how Stereo-seq can make possible better analysis of molecule and cell distribution and placement in situ and in due course.
“In the past, it took thousands or even tens of thousands of experiments to complete a spatiotemporal map. Now with Stereo-seq developed by our scientists, it can be achieved quickly and comprehensively with one,” said Dr. Chen Ao, a paper’s first author and head of the technology’s development team. “This is a milestone breakthrough in life sciences technology advancement.”
The scientists who produced these panoramic atlases published a study in the journal Cell and three others in Developmental Cell.
Over 80 scientists have participated in the STOC consortium to date. These come from 16 countries and different institutions including Harvard University, Oxford University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Panoramic spatial maps
Spatial transcriptomics technology is a budding technology that builds upon what has been achieved with single-cell sequencing. It helps to overcome the challenges involved in making out single cell characteristics in living tissue. With the technology, scientists can pin down the exact location of a cell and its interaction with neighboring cells.
Stereo-seq, whose name comes from SpaTial Enhanced REsolution Omics-sequencing, amplifies tiny DNA fragments into larger samples and then captures their images. The tech is capable of a sub-cellular resolution of 500 nanometers and boasts a panoramic centimeter-level field of view.
Scientists used the technology to examine mice’s early embryonic development, especially between 9.5 and 16.5 days – a period characterized by rapid development. It helped to produce what the team called the Mouse Organogenesis Spatiotemporal Transcriptomic Atlas (MOSTA).
The scientists successfully generated some high-definition maps that reveal the specific location of around 300,000 cells from an embryo of 16.5 days for the first time. This information was used to create a panoramic mouse atlas, which was useful for learning more about cell variation and differentiation in developing brain tissues.
Similar embryonic research was also carried out with zebrafish and small fruit flies (Drosophila). Scientists also applied the technology to the Arabidopsis plant’s leaf cells, overcoming a long-term hurdle in the process.
This spatial transcriptomics technology can enable scientists to learn even more about plants and animals. It makes it possible to know more precisely the country, area, habitat, or community that animals or plants come from.
The work of these researchers could also aid studies on Robinow syndrome. The scientists found that a gene related to that condition was present in mice’s lips and toes. A mutation of that can result in anomalous lip and toe development in the animals.
With its application to the Arabidopsis plant, scientists also showed that Stereo-seq can be useful in plant and crop research.
The technology may be used to learn more about genes that play vital roles in seed development. Possible applications also include baring the mechanisms that are factors in drought and heat resistance. Stereo-seq could essentially aid in producing better stress-resistant, superior crop strains.