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Cell Analysis News | 2012 Year in Review

12/17/2012
Andrew S. Wiecek

In 2012, the rise of single-cell analysis techniques have yielded new data that has researchers re-thinking and re-evaluating some of their ideas on stem cells and cancer biology. What else happened in 2012? Find out...


Cell Analysis News | 2012 Year in Review

In 2012, the rise of single-cell analysis techniques have yielded new data that has researchers re-thinking and re-evaluating some of their ideas on stem cells and cancer biology. What else happened in 2012? Find out...

Storified by BioTechniques · Mon, Dec 17 2012 11:12:18

All things considered, single-cell analysis was the biggest story in cell biology this past year. Gone are the days where researchers trusted that the averages of cell populations were representative of each individual cell within that group. On one hand, this provides a new understanding of what’s actually happening in biology and diseases like cancer. But it also represents another bulk of data that needs to be analyzed. Such is the double-edged sword that sometimes accompanies new techniques. In addition, this year we saw advances in stem cell techniques as well as some controversial findings challenged.    
BioTechniques - Chimeric Monkeys BornBy inserting genes from six different monkey embryos, US researchers have created the first chimera primates. Three chimera monkeys were ...
In 2012, stem cell researchers continued to develop new ways to isolate, purify, and characterize embryonic and induced human stem cells for future applications in regenerative medicine. In January researchers announced that three chimera monkeys were born in a lab using stem cell techniques. The monkeys were created by combining the genes from several embryonic stem cells into new embryos and then implanting those embryos into a female monkey to carry to term. This marked the first time such an experiment was successfully attempted in primates.
BioTechniques - No Two Cancer Cells Are AlikeNo Two Cancer Cells Are Alike A new study finds that cells shed from tumors express unique sets of genes, suggesting more targeted cancer...
This year, thanks to the advances in microfluidics, single-cell analysis became a major topic in biology research. This has enabled researchers to isolate and study individual cells from populations for the first time. As a result, these scientists have discovered that biology is much more complicated than they previously believed. Nothing has exemplified this better than several cancer studies that describe significant difference in the genes expressed by cells in a tumor and those expressed by circulating cells shed by the tumor. Additional studies have found that several subpopulations of cells exists even within tumors, which could complicate the development of cancer treatments that target these cells.  
BioTechniques - Cancer is Addicted to GlycineCancer is Addicted to Glycine According to a new study, the amino acid glycine fuels fast-growing cancer cells. The discovery could re-sh...
Also in cancer research, scientists have continued to characterize the cancer cell lines upon which so many labs base their studies. One example was a paper published in Science in May that profiled the metabolites of cancer cells. In that paper, researchers looked at 60 human cancer cell lines and found a correlation between glycine consumption and rapid growth. Why these cells consume so much glycine and how that contributes to their growth remains a question, but provides a new avenue for research into cancer cell metabolism.  
BioTechniques - "Arsenic Life" Claim Refuted"Arsenic Life" Claim Refuted Further studies on the microbe GFAJ-1 have toppled last year's assertions that the bacterium's growth is dep...
On another note, a controversial finding from 2011 was refuted. Last year, researchers reported the discovery of bacteria that could incorporate arsenate instead of phosphate into its DNA backbone. But two papers published this year showed that the results were probably skewed by phosphate contamination in the cell culture medium from that original experiment. Can the bacteria live in arsenic environments without phosphate? No, the two papers reported, highlighting how easily contamination can lead to erroneous results.   
BioTechniques - Nobel Prize Goes to Gurdon and Yamanaka for Stem Cell ResearchNobel Prize Goes to Gurdon and Yamanaka for Stem Cell Research Two scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their dis...
And, in the end, stem cell research took center stand in this year’s Nobel Prize announcements. Researchers John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka share this year’s prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery that adult cells can be rolled back developmentally into pluripotent cells. Now, comes the hard part of getting these cells ready for regenerative medicine applications, which is proving quite difficult.

Overall, this year in cell analysis was remarkable for single-cell analysis techniques that revealed additional layers of complexity in cancer biology as well as the continued work into stem cell applications. Next year, single-cell analysis should begin revealing even more details of not only cancer biology but of other diseases, tissues, and organisms as well.