EDITORIAL

Exploring organisms cell by cell

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Science  21 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6421, pp. 1333
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3633

Summary

In an imaginary universe, you have discovered a set of planets, each with its own complex civilization with many culturally distinct nations. You face the daunting task of exploring each planet, mapping national boundaries, and characterizing different cultural features. In discussing this challenge with your colleagues, you come up with an alternative plan. You can divide each planet into small sectors, tag each sector for identification, send out many small probes to land in random locations and send back data, and then use the tagging information to computationally assemble the information into detailed atlases and travel guides. Science's Breakthrough of the Year recognizes the application of this tag-analyze-assemble approach to one of the most fundamental and fascinating processes in biology—the seemingly miraculous transformation of single cells into complex organisms—providing rich information about cell-type inventories and laying the foundation for many future studies.

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