Flow Cytometry, Amped Up

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Science  06 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6030, pp. 677-678
DOI: 10.1126/science.1206351

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In multicellular organisms, cells carry out a diverse array of complex, specialized functions. This specialization occurs mostly through the expression of cell type—specific genes and proteins that generate the appropriate structures and molecular networks. A central challenge in the biomedical sciences, however, has been to identify the distinct lineages and phenotypes of the specialized cells in organ systems, and track their molecular evolution during differentiation. On page 687 of this issue, Bendall et al. (1) offer a brilliant proof of principle for a novel technology—mass cytometry—and provide a uniquely detailed view of cell differentiation in the human hematopoietic system. They used this technology to simultaneously examine 34 attributes of human bone marrow cells and then create a superimposed map showing the complex interactions of cell signaling molecules, all at an unprecedented level of resolution. This opens a new chapter in single-cell biology.