All our organs are composed of cells, and it is because of this that cells represent fundamental units of biology. Importantly, cells with different specialized functions combine to provide the overall functionality of each of our organs. Specialization of cells is perhaps best understood in the blood system, where red blood cells for example are dedicated to carrying oxygen round the body, while a myriad of specialized immune cells help to fight infections. A better understanding of the molecular features that characterize individual cells is not only essential for us to gain a better understanding of how the human body functions normally, but to understand the changes that occur with aging and disease. Recent technological innovations have made it possible to comprehensively map the activity of all genes within single cells, at a scale of thousands of cells at the same time. We propose to utilize some of the latest protocols in this field to be able to examine DNA, messenger RNA and protein levels, and thus obtain especially detailed insights into the molecular make up of hundreds of thousands of individual blood and immune cells across the human lifespan.
Through integration with the wider Human Cell Atlas Initiative, our datasets will deliver an important reference, that will serve as a platform for future studies aiming to reveal the molecular alterations during aging and that cause the misbehaviour of blood cells in a broad range of disorders including blood cancers and immune diseases. These studies will also allow the design of more individualised drugs that can revere this abnormal behaviour leading to blood diseases and disorders.
Cambridge University has existing plans to conduct single-cell CITE-Seq profiling of bone marrow CD34+ cells taken from samples from young and aged adults for the Human Cell Atlas project. Our pilot project aims to produce complementary single-cell ATAC-Seq data from cells taken from the same samples.
The bone marrow CD34+ cells will be taken from 4 healthy young male adults and 4 aged male adults in overall good health. The chromatin organization will be analyzed by using the single-cell ATAC-Seq technique to assess the epigenetic changes through the aging process.
The results of the project are being analyzed.