10x Genomics debuts gene expression mapping tech

The Visium Spatial Gene Expression Solution shows how cells are organized within tissue. (10x Genomics)

Last year, 10x Genomics jumped into the emerging field of spatial genomics through its buyout of Sweden’s Spatial Transcriptomics. Now, the company is rolling out the first product to come out of that deal: an assay that provides a map of how cells work and interact with each other within a tissue sample. 

“Instead of looking at the surface, we can look at all the complicated underlying mechanisms happening in each cell and how they are organized in space and the tissue,” 10x Genomics Chief Scientific Officer Ben Hindson, Ph.D., told FierceBiotech. 

Scientists typically study tissue by staining it and looking at it under a microscope, but this limits the number of characteristics they can study. 

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“What we are able to do now is utilize our technology to capture thousands of different products of each cell and then we can measure those with mRNA sequencing, which essentially gives us an unlimited number of parameters we can study in any tissues,” Hindson said. It could be useful in finding new drug targets and gauging how treatments are working, be they in development or on the market. 

RELATED: 10x Genomics steps into tissue-level gene expression mapping with Spatial Transcriptomics acquisition 

Single-cell analysis, which 10x Genomics offers on its Chromium platform, provides more information than traditional sequencing, which others have likened to trail mix or a smoothie. This method sequences the average of the many cell types in a given tissue, so some cells and their contributions to the tissue may mask others—just as some types of fruits overpower others in a smoothie. 

Although sequencing individual cells helps determine the function of each cell, their locations in relation to each other are lost in the process. 10x Genomics’ Visium Spatial Gene Expression Solution preserves that information. This could help scientists figure out whether particular cells were communicating with each other, or if a tumor cell is nestled in the middle of other types of cells that immune cells can’t infiltrate, Hindson said. 

RELATED: 10x Genomics' IPO rockets past a $390M raise 

It could provide clues as to how various organs, such as the brain, go from being healthy to being diseased and shed light on why a cancer drug may or may not be working. 

The company started shipping the assay worldwide to small biotechs, Big Pharma and academic and research institutions like Stanford University and the New York Genome Center. It is just the first assay that 10x Genomics will offer on the Visium platform. Though the company is keeping its future plans close to the vest, new offerings could look like what’s currently available for its single-cell technology. New assays could tackle immune profiling or epigenetics.

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