Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technology has become the state-of-the-art approach for unravelling the heterogeneity and complexity of RNA transcripts within individual cells, as well as revealing the composition of different cell types and functions within highly organized tissues/organs/organisms. Since its first discovery in 2009, studies based on scRNA-seq provide massive information across different fields making exciting new discoveries in better understanding the composition and interaction of cells within humans, model animals and plants.
In this review, BGI scientists provide a concise overview about the scRNA-seq technology, experimental and computational procedures for transforming the biological and molecular processes into computational and statistical data. The reviewers also provide an explanation of the key technological steps in implementing the technology. They highlight a few examples on how scRNA-seq can provide unique information for better understanding health and diseases. One important application of the scRNA-seq technology is to build a better and high-resolution catalogue of cells in all living organism, commonly known as atlas, which is key resource to better understand and provide a solution in treating diseases. While great promises have been demonstrated with the technology in all areas, the reviewers further highlight a few remaining challenges to be overcome and its great potentials in transforming current protocols in disease diagnosis and treatment.
An overview of the single-cell RNA-sequencing procedures
(A) Isolation of the cells from tissue samples and capturing of the single cells, wrapping of each individual cell with a bead inside a nanoscale droplet (each bead contains unique molecular identifiers), (B) barcoding and amplification of complementary DNA (cDNA) and (C) library preparation procedure. After single-cell RNA sequencing (D), the snapshot data would be analyzed to present and classify the landscape of gene expression in cells of a heterogeneous population (E). Illustrative figure in (E) is generated with BioRender with license for publication