It is responsible for synthesizing proteins and carrying the genetic messages of the DNA, which is essential for the expansion of life.Hence the field of genomics, which allows the extraction and in-depth study of RNA molecules from any tissue, has now transformed drastically over the last decade in biology and medicine.
The development of this powerful technology allows exploring the molecules derived from a tissue of a healthy individual and compares it to the molecules of a diseased individual to potentially reveal the cause of the disease. This may boost the significant efforts to
‘The exact location of millions of RNA molecules inside the tissues can now be mapped with a nanoscale resolution for the first time using a newly-developed technology called ‘Expansion technology’. This in turn may boost the significant efforts to advance the treatment of various complex diseases including Alzheimer’s and cancer research.’
This so-called ‘expansion technology’, was created by incorporating two methods. One was to map the RNA molecules inside simple cells that were created by a team at Harvard, and the other ones allowed physically to ‘blow-up’ the cells and tissues by a team at MIT. Both of these techniques were developed around six years ago.
“We now have a ‘Google map’ that allows measuring millions of RNA molecules within the tissue with nanoscale precision, without having to extract them as we did previously. Using expansion technology, researchers and medical doctors will be able to perform genomics analysis in 3D to obtain not only the identity of molecules, but also their location inside the tissue, and thus treat complex diseases better and more effectively,” says Dr. Shahar Alon, of Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Engineering, Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center and Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, the first author of the study.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to gradual memory loss and behavioral changes. It is characterized by the formation of beta-amyloid plaques and the tau proteins in the brain tissues, long before the actual symptoms occur.
The expansion technology allows the detection of RNA molecules inside the synapses (the nanoscale communicating region between any two neurons), in the brain tissue. Cognitive processes such as learning and memory are affected by the location of the molecules in the tissue.
With the mapping of the molecules, an advanced understanding of whether molecules or their location are damaged as a result of Alzheimer’s diseases can be very well derived.
Previous studies already establish the change of cancer cell’s behavior based on the identity of their neighboring cells. In other words, the tumor cells express different molecules if they are close to immune cells, and vice versa.
Hence the detection of cancer cells’ location in the tissue with relation to immune system cells, and their molecular contents can also be done using this new technology.
The study team strongly believes that the invention of this new technology may mark the dawn of an age where creating the complete molecular maps of tissues from individuals shall be feasible.
This drastic change would call for the experts in the fields of image analysis, data analysis, and genetics to decipher the huge molecular maps and learn more about various complex diseases.
- Expansion sequencing: Spatially precise in situ transcriptomics in intact biological systems