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Data and Technology sector_ico_Health_trans Human Health

A DNA-based global positioning system

  • Project Leaders: Nozomu Yachie, Geoffrey Schiebinger
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $250000
  • Program/Competition: Pilot Innovation Fund
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome British Columbia
  • Fiscal Year: 2021
  • Status: Active

There are many factors that influence gene expression in cells, and neighboring cells impact one another. Several technologies have been piloted in the last several years to map gene expression patterns in tissues, but are limited to tissue smaller than a pea. No technology has been developed to map billions of cells at the scales of an entire tumour or a brain. If such a system existed, it would revolutionize bioimaging and our genomic understanding.

A UBC based team, Nozomu Yachie and Geoffrey Schiebinger propose a “global positioning” approach to spatial gene expression, similar to the global positioning systems (GPS) used in navigation systems for automobiles and cell phones. They will develop a scalable spatial gene expression technology, called GPS-seq, using “DNA satellite barcode molecules” and high throughput DNA sequencing to identify the positions of many cells with all their gene expression profiles at once. GPS-seq is the combination of two innovations:

  1. Technology to quickly map a 10,000 mm2 field with a resolution of 10~30 μm.
  2. Deep sequencer, a highly accessible, less expensive, and simple to operate machine that is readable available to researchers.

GPS-seq will have high impacts in broad fields of research in the life sciences and will change the way we understand tissues. It will allow the development of numerous therapies and drugs,  and will trigger a shift in biology, similar to high-throughput deep sequencing and single-cell genomics technologies in the last decades.