6 OC TOBER 2017 • VOL 358 ISSUE 6359 57
Imagine being able to shrink down to a small enough size to peer into the human body at he single-cell level. Now take a deep breath and plunge into that cell to see all of the on- going biological processes, including the full complement of molecules and their locations within the cell. This has long been the realm of science fiction, but not for much longer. Recent technological advances now allow us
to identify and visualize RNA transcripts, proteins,
and other cellular components at the single-cell
level. This has led to discoveries about the immune system, brain, and developmental processes
and is poised to revolutionize our understanding
of the entire human body.
We anticipate breakthroughs with an increased
ability to confidently examine the components of
a single cell, including in identifying and treating
disease at the cellular or even molecular level. Advancing our understanding of pathology will allow
us to predict how genes predispose individuals to
a disease and aid in prevention and treatment.
This will be especially important for diseases such
as cancer, which can often have extremely variable genetic compositions resulting in diferent
gene expression profiles within a single tumor. Although the technology to shrink oneself remains
fiction, our ability to visualize how genes act at the
single-cell level is not, and we look forward to enlarging our knowledge of the human body.
A FANTASTIC VOYAGE IN
By Laura M. Zahn