Spatially resolved proteomic mapping of complex tissues at the single cell level

In recent years, researchers have developed new techniques to study genes and their output, or gene expression, in single cells in the context of tissues or organs. Savas Tay is leading a team to develop a method that combines the study of gene expression at the level of individual cells with single-cell measurements of proteins and protein complexes. The technique, which they term PLA-Seq, will allow researchers to capture information about proteins, protein complexes, and gene expression levels in cells in their natural microenvironments, and will also use a special kind of molecular barcode to allow researchers to see the locations of individual cells in the tissue. Tay and his colleagues will use healthy and diseased gut tissue and blood from patients with Crohn’s disease, an auto-immune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the intestines, to better understand the proteins and protein complexes that go awry in the gut in this disease. Capturing the variation of all these molecules in individual cells could lead to new understanding of a variety of diseases.

Affiliated Investigators

Savas Tay, Ph.D.

University of Chicago

Savas Tay is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, in the Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering and the Institute for Genomics and Systems Biology. His research aims to understand the working principles of complex biological systems, such as immune cells and signaling pathways, to ultimately generate predictive models of such systems and to manipulate them to help cure diseases. His laboratory develops high-throughput and high-content single-cell and single-molecule analysis methods by integrating microfluidics, automation, optics and data science. A major focus for his laboratory is to develop high-throughput single-cell proteomic methods, where the abundance of proteins, protein complexes and nucleic acids will be measured quantitatively and in a spatially resolved manner. Before becoming interested in problems in biology and bioengineering, he conducted research on nonlinear optics and holography. Dr. Tay received the European Research Council Starting Grant in 2013.