Advances in single-cell mass-spec enable high-throughput proteomics

April 21, 2018

In a news article entitled "Advances in Mass Spec Push Single-Cell Proteomics Toward Feasibility", GenomeWeb highlighted a mass-spec method for quantifying proteins in single cells (SCoPE-MS) that we have developed and the exciting new developments. Below are a few quotes:

"I think it's a very exciting time for [single-cell proteomics]," said Nikolai Slavov, an assistant professor at Northeastern University and the developer of an isobaric tagging-approach to single cell proteomics called Single Cell Proteomics by Mass Spectrometry (SCOPE-MS). "There are huge gains to be made. It's not just about marginally improving over the current state."


"If we are just able to quantify the proteins of ten cells [at a single-cell level], it's not very useful," Slavov said. "At the single-cell level, we need to be able to quantify thousands of single cells. We need to be able to obtain quantitative information for hundreds of cells per day per instrument."


"Currently, if we want to make, for instance, beta cells of the pancreas to cure diabetes, or heart cells, we start by taking stem cells and throwing various chemicals at them using some combination of intuition, guessing, and trial and error," he said. "This is very inefficient, very expensive, and very slow, and I think that if we can make [proteomic] measurements in single cells and we can analyze that data appropriately we might derive rational approaches that can substantially enhance the efficiency of directed stem cell differentiation and help develop regenerative therapies for all types of diseases."

The other obvious application, Slavov said, is for research into the origins of cancer.

"We have been looking at mRNA, because that is what we could measure with single-cell methods," he said. "And that has been informative and useful. But the thing I would like to look at is what are the signaling pathways that are dysregulated in cancer. To the extent that we can measure proteins and their post translational modifications in single cells, that can better inform us about the different signaling processes in cancer, and that will serve as a stronger basis for precision medicine cancer therapies."