Human Primordial Germ Cells visualised under microscope

Surani and single-cell sequencing

Azim Surani BW portrait

30.03.22  In her ‘milestone’ article for Drug Discovery News, The Rapid Rise of Single Cell Sequencing, Harvard biology student Maggie Chen examines the history of single-cell sequencing, first developed by Azim Surani (left) at the Gurdon Institute and published in 2009. The technique was a by-product of Surani’s desire to find out which genes were active in primordial germ cells.

This technical innovation has been evolved and developed into several technologies used across all areas of biomedical research, with an impact on studies of human disease, and underlies the large-scale Human Cell Atlas project at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

We were really interested in the germ cell biology. The technology was a by-product. It was a necessity if you wanted to know what genes were involved in germ cell specification.

Azim Surani

The genetic basis for germ cell specification was not known. Partly, this is a technical problem since there are about 30 founder (primordial) germ cells. This is when we started to do single-cell cDNA.

Azim Surani