Single-cell technologies

© Fraunhofer ITEM, Ralf Mohr

Genomic alterations (e.g. mutations, copy number changes) are currently searched for information enabling individual therapy selection. Currently, mostly tissue samples from primary tumors are used to retrieve this information. As tumor cells constantly change and clinicians aim to minimize repeated painful biopsies, various methods have been developed to detect and isolate tumor cells circulating in peripheral blood.

This approach aims to constantly monitor the development of the disease in each cancer patient, thereby enabling fast adaptation of individual therapies. It is hoped that this approach results in improved survival rates and quality of life.

Connecting cellular physiology to genetic make-up: Investigating the tasks of individual cells in receiving, processing and sharing of information

Multicellular organisms, organs and tissues are composed of many different cell types characterized by extensive interactions. A clear understanding of the mutual dependencies of different cells is essential to assign each cell its role in physiology and pathophysiology. With few exceptions, normal cells operate on the basis of the same genome. However, cancer cells show a high degree of genetic variation, each being genetically unique. For this reason, comprehensive analysis of the genetic composition of individual cancer cells is crucial for a deep understanding of development and progression of systemic cancer. Furthermore, genetic characteristics of cancer cells change during disease progression, requiring repeated genome analyses, in particular after primary tumor resection, but before the occurrence of distant metastases. During this phase of disease progression only very few cancer cells (circulating tumor cells in the blood or disseminated cancer cells that invaded other organs such as lymph nodes, bone marrow, or cerebrospinal fluid) can be found and isolated. These rare cells offer the possibility to identify therapeutically relevant mutations and to select tailored therapies for patients, thereby preventing systemic progression of the disease at an early stage. Fraunhofer ITEM in Regensburg develops advanced next-generation sequencing technologies including matched quality control assays to reliably analyze the comprehensive genetic information of a single cell. This provides new opportunities not only for molecular diagnostics in precision oncology, but also for the investigation of pathophysiological processes with rare driver cells.

Next-generation approaches and bioinformatics solutions for single-cell analysis

Multi-level quality control assays for optimal NGS sample selection

Developing and improving omics technologies for single cells

Tailored bioinformatics solutions for optimized NGS strategies

Identification and assessment of RNA and DNA biomarkers in cancer

Translating complex biomarkers into molecular diagnostics