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CollageMany biological experiments are performed on groups of cells under the assumption that all cells of a particular “type” are identical. However, recent evidence from studies of single cells reveals that this assumption is incorrect. Individual cells within the same population may differ dramatically, and these differences can have important consequences for the health and function of the entire population. Experimental approaches that only examine population-level characteristics can obscure these crucial differences. New approaches to single cell analyses are needed to uncover fundamental biological principles and ultimately improve the detection and treatment of diseases. These approaches must address significant challenges that currently exist with regard to systematically describing the given “state” of a cell, defining normal cell-to-cell variation, measuring the impact of environmental perturbations, understanding cellular responses in the larger context of tissues and networks, and overcoming limitations in measurement approaches.

The Single Cell Analysis Program currently supports centers examining the transcriptional signatures of individual human cells in order to measure and analyze cellular heterogeneity and to define specific cell types and/or cell “states” in a given population; individual research studies that focus on the discovery and early development of exceptionally innovative tools for early stage, high-risk/high-impact projects to enable and improve single cell analysis; and individual research studies that accelerate the integration and translation of technologies to characterize single cells (see the Funded Research for specific research project).

Read more about the Program Goals and Initiatives.

For any questions, please contact NIH program staff at single_cell@mail.nih.gov

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