Rebus Biosystems, an Illumina Ventures-backed life science technology firm, has announced the publication of a study in Science highlighting its Rebus Esper platform’s ability to spatially resolve vascular cell diversity in the adult human brain. This effort was led by researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF; San Francisco, USA), a Rebus press release states.
Teams from the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery and the UCSF Weill Institute of Neurosciences, in collaboration with other institutions, analysed cells present in subjects with arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)—which are caused by incorrectly formed blood vessels in the brain, and often lead to stroke.
The researchers compared these cells with samples from healthy adult brain blood vessels to determine which genes were being expressed in the differing samples. Finally, they created a comprehensive cell atlas of the vascular system in the brain. This research revealed that certain immune cells appear to weaken smooth muscle cells in the diseased brain vasculature of patients with AVMs, resulting in a stroke.
This particular immune cell subtype may serve as a new therapeutic target, while systematically defining other candidate targets for future investigation and therapeutic development, according to the Rebus press release.
“Historically, the vascular system in the adult human brain has been very challenging to map due to high cell density in a 3D space and the presence of a naturally-occurring pigment on ageing cells called lipofuscin,” said Ethan Winkler, research associate at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and one of the lead authors of the study. “By using Rebus’ Esper technology, we were able to reduce the lipofuscin background, visualise subcellular details that are critical to our understanding of how these cells interact in their environment, and build a comprehensive cerebrovascular atlas.”
In the study, marker genes were identified from single-cell transcriptomes and—using the Rebus Esper platform with the Esper high-fidelity assay—gene expression was then matched with a cell’s location. Spatial distributions of cerebrovascular cell states were also characterised with the Esper assay, which Rebus claims is a key feature of the Esper platform that allows researchers to conduct gene expression and spatial analyses more accurately.
“We commend Dr Winkler and the team at UCSF for this important research and are thrilled to have enabled it with our technology,” said Rebus CEO Paul Sargeant. “The Esper platform, coupled with our highly sensitive and specific high-fidelity assay, successfully resolved vascular cell diversity in the adult human cerebral cortex, enabling the creation of this comprehensive atlas. We hope this research will guide future study into the human brain and help broaden researchers understanding of neurological disease treatment and prevention.”