Technologies like next-generation sequencing allow us to understand which RNA transcripts and proteins are expressed in biological tissues. However, it’s often equally important to understand how cells or molecules are positioned relative to one another! Whether it be a cell changing its shape, an organelle ramping up a metabolic process, or a DNA molecule traveling across the nucleus, understanding spatial context is critical. Current approaches for spatial sequencing are limited by cost, complicated equipment, sample damage, or low resolution.
Recognizing this challenge, Josie and team developed Light-seq, a cheap and accessible method to combine sequencing and imaging in intact biological samples. Not only is the method inexpensive, but Light-seq can also achieve unprecedented spatial resolution by using light to add genetic barcodes to any RNA, allowing scientists to determine exactly where sequencing should occur with extreme precision. By helping researchers to understand spatial context, Light-seq-driven insights may illuminate cancer, neurodegeneration, and autoimmunity.