News FocusCell Biology

The Power of One

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 24-26
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6013.24-a

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


Mashing up a multitude of cells in order to study them obliterates key differences between cells, researchers have come to realize. That's why more and more scientists are opting to take the measure of individual cells. Scientists have already recorded the most accurate measurements of how much an individual cell weighs and gauged how much oxygen one requires. They've flagged specific cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy and developed ways to pinpoint rare, disease-causing bacteria among swarms of harmless microbes. Developmental biologists have tallied gene activity as a fertilized egg starts its course of division and specialization, work that might help clarify the factors that spur a cell in the embryo to become one tissue and its seemingly identical next-door neighbor to become something else. And other researchers have spelled out how individual cells not only cope with but actually benefit from "noise," random fluctuations in their internal and external conditions. Of course, scientists have paid attention to single cells ever since the first microscopes were invented. What's changed is that researchers are now applying to individual cells the powerful techniques, including genome sequencing, mass spectrometry, and gene expression analysis, that formerly required batches of cells.