Using a process known as single cell sequencing, scientists at Karolinska Institutet have produced a detailed map of cortical cell types and the genes active within them.
The study, which is published in the journal Science, marks the first time this method of analysis has been used on such a large scale on such complex tissue.
The team studied over three thousand cells, one at a time, and even managed to identify a number of hitherto unknown types.
“If you compare the brain to a fruit salad, you could say that previous methods were like running the fruit through a blender and seeing what colour juice you got from different parts of the brain,” says Sten Linnarsson, senior researcher at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics.
“But in recent years we’ve developed much more sensitive methods of analysis that allow us to see which genes are active in individual cells. This is like taking pieces of the fruit salad, examining them one by one and then sorting them into piles to see how many different kinds of fruit it contains, what they’re made up of and how they interrelate.”