Quantum Dot Platform for Single-Cell Molecular Profiling
Zrazhevskiy, Pavel S.
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In-depth understanding of the nature of cell physiology and ability to diagnose and control the progression of pathological processes heavily rely on untangling the complexity of intracellular molecular mechanisms and pathways. Therefore, comprehensive molecular profiling of individual cells within the context of their natural tissue or cell culture microenvironment is essential. In principle, this goal can be achieved by tagging each molecular target with a unique reporter probe and detecting its localization with high sensitivity at sub-cellular resolution, primarily via microscopy-based imaging. Yet, neither widely used conventional methods nor more advanced nanoparticle-based techniques have been able to address this task up to date. High multiplexing potential of fluorescent probes is heavily restrained by the inability to uniquely match probes with corresponding molecular targets. This issue is especially relevant for quantum dot probes - while simultaneous spectral imaging of up to 10 different probes is possible, only few can be used concurrently for staining with existing methods. To fully utilize multiplexing potential of quantum dots, it is necessary to design a new staining platform featuring unique assignment of each target to a corresponding quantum dot probe. This dissertation presents two complementary versatile approaches towards achieving comprehensive single-cell molecular profiling and describes engineering of quantum dot probes specifically tailored for each staining method. Analysis of expanded molecular profiles is achieved through augmenting parallel multiplexing capacity with performing several staining cycles on the same specimen in sequential manner. In contrast to other methods utilizing quantum dots or other nanoparticles, which often involve sophisticated probe synthesis, the platform technology presented here takes advantage of simple covalent bioconjugation and non-covalent self-assembly mechanisms for straightforward probe preparation and specimen labeling, requiring no advanced technical skills and being directly applicable for a wide range of molecular profiling studies. Utilization of quantum dot platform for single-cell molecular profiling promises to greatly benefit both biomedical research and clinical diagnostics by providing a tool for addressing phenotypic heterogeneity within large cell populations, opening access to studying low-abundance events often masked or completely erased by batch processing, and elucidating biomarker signatures of diseases critical for accurate diagnostics and targeted therapy.
- Bioengineering