Researchers at the New York Genome Center and New York University in New York City developed a 3-D printed, portable and low-cost microfluidic device to facilitate access to single-cell sequencing. The researchers used the device to study synovial tissue from patients with rheumatoid arthritis at the New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery and published their findings in Nature Communications.
Here are five things to know.
1. The 3-D printed custom device, along with its electronic and pneumatic components, can be obtained and assembled for a total of $600, much less than comparable commercial systems.
2. The instrument is designed to perform droplet microfluidics, particularly Drop-seq, a parallel technology for single cell RNA-sequencing.
3. The controller's portability permitted patient samples to be processed on-site and immediately following surgery, minimizing handling and transport to optimize sample quality. The researchers collected samples from five RA patients for a total of 20,387 cells and looked at the individual gene expression patterns for each cell.
4. The researchers identified 13 groups, representing both infiltrating immune and inflamed stromal populations. There were distinct groups of fibroblasts with strikingly different gene expression patterns. "The researchers validated the presence of these multiple groups using flow cytometry, discovering they showed distinct localization patterns with the joint tissue as well," according to the study.
5. The dataset is a step towards creating a comprehensive "cell atlas" for synovial tissue from RA patients. The researchers also aim to compile data from additional RA patients and to obtain patient samples from other arthritic conditions. They see a use for the technology in profiling samples that are difficult to study in a standard lab, such as highly infectious samples in biocontainment facilities or samples collected in field research settings. Instructions and assembly manuals for the instrument can be found online at the popular microfluidics repository Metafluidics.
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