A new single-cell genomics protocol that is potentially transformative for epigenetics research has been developed by scientists in the UK and Belgium. Applying this method, it is now possible to study the epigenome and transcriptome of a single cell at the same time. This novel approach could enhance our understanding of the link between gene expression and DNA methylation in single cells. Also, the knowledge of this relationship may clarify the mechanisms underlying normal development, and changes that occur with ageing and cancer.
Recently published in Nature Methods, the research describes the first method to enable parallel profiling of the transcriptome and epigenome of the single cell. To demonstrate the potential of the method, the researchers used mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). In the presence of serum, these cells switch continuously between different gene-expression states. For each cell, the researchers obtained sufficient coverage to study epigenetic and transcriptome heterogeneity of several thousand genes. They found that ESCs exhibit a highly variable epigenetic state that is reflected in changes in gene expression.
Future clinical applications may use this new method to provide multidimensional information in clinical contexts by maximizing the amount of biological data that can be obtained from a single cell.
This exciting new method was developed by researchers from Babraham Institute, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), a collaborative work to develop a new single-cell method.
Source: Learn all about it and read more about their findings here: Angermueller C et al., Parallel single-cell sequencing links transcriptional and epigenetic heterogeneity. Nature Methods. Published online 11 January 2016.