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Researchers Uncover Previously Unknown Immune Cell Subtypes

Using single-cell RNA sequencing, scientists characterize new populations of dendritic cells and monocytes.

Aggie Mika

DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT: A newly discovered type of dendritic cell (left) exhibits notable differences from a standard plasmacytoid dendritic cell (right).3-D RECONSTRUCTION BY JAMES FLETCHER, IMAGE COURTESY OF KATHRYN WHITE, NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN IMMUNOLOGY

The paper
A.-C. Villani et al., “Single-cell RNA-seq reveals new types of human blood dendritic cells, monocytes, and progenitors,” Science, 356:eaah4573, 2017.

Hiding, not seeking
Dendritic cells and monocytes, essential pathogen-sensing immune watchdogs, fall into subtypes based on factors such as cell surface markers. But according to genomicist and immunologist Alexandra-Chloé Villani of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, scientists only “use a handful of markers to define their favorite cell type,” potentially overlooking subpopulations with similar features but different functions.

New cell types
To redefine traditional cell subtypes, Villani and her colleagues isolated human dendritic cells and monocytes, sequenced the transcriptomes of individual cells, then grouped cells based on similar expression...

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