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The results of a new international research project have revealed some surprising results in examining cells within a tissue sample. The research team found that they could distinguish between different types of cells within any tissue sample. This is significant in that it may mean identifying the cell clusters responsible for fighting off cancer.

By analyzing the RNA molecules in a tissue sample, it was previously found that cellular activity could be used to determine the type and severity of cancer in a person. However, the sheer number of cells in a small tissue sample, which can amount to millions, has made this type of testing prohibitive. This new study may have resolved that problem, making this type of testing more efficient.

The research team used a deconvolution algorithm to collect data about the cells in the sample, so that cells could be matched to other cells that shared similar characteristics. This new method provides valuable information about a tissue sample, including the types and number of cells in the sample. Tissue samples with a more diverse collection of cells require the collection of additional data to help distinguish between the various types of cells.

Again, the research team, which was comprised of scientists from ITMO University in Moscow, Russia and the University of Washington in St. Louis, Missouri, looked for ways to overcome the challenge. They found that, by looking at the mutual linearity principle in the genes of each cell, they could distinguish between the cells. In simpler terms, this means that genes specific to a certain cell type will directly depend on other genes in similar cells. These cells form a network with one another, which makes it easier to determine which cell types are present in a given sample.

This method of identifying the different cell types in a tissue sample relies on gaining accurate data about the RNA in each cell type. As research helps improve this type of testing, it may be used to identify how cancer patients respond to treatment. Blood samples can be examined to see how vaccinations alter the composition of the cells in the tissue. Konstantin Zaitsev, who is heading up the ITMO University research team, says the method is already being used to examine the cells of various cancer survivors.