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Single Cell Genomics: Key role in lung research

Herbert Schiller (ILBD/CPC-M) co-organised first symposium of the DZL working group

Activity of individual genes in different cells of the developing human lung by `single molecule fluorescent in situ hybridization - smFISH´ (© and data: Christos Samakovlis - SciLifeLab Stockholm)

On May 5, 2021, the kick-off meeting of the Single Cell Genomics Working Group of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) took place. More than 100 DZL researchers attended the symposium held via Zoom and contributed to the lively discussions. Dr. Herbert Schiller of ILBD/CPC-M is coordinator of the new DZL working group and was co-organizer of the event.

The still relatively young field of Single Cell Genomics - i. e. the massive parallel sequencing of the RNA of hundreds of thousands of individual cells of a tissue or organ - has led to groundbreaking discoveries in biomedical research in recent years and has virtually transformed our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of diseases. It was therefore no surprise that there was great interest in the kick-off meeting of the DZL Single Cell Genomics Working Group of the German Center for Lung Research. 

Analysis and Evaluation of Single Cell Genomics

Malte Lücken and Fabian Theis from ICB (Helmholtz Zentrum München) and both DZL PIs, demonstrated the possibilities of pooling and jointly analyzing Single Cell Genomics data from different studies or clinical cohorts in combination with demographic data. This allows researchers to distinguish between cellular changes in the lung occuring physiologically during as part of healthy aging process and pathological changes characterizing early or late stages of a particular disease.

The kick-off meeting showed that single cell genomics plays a key role lung research: "Cellular circuits consisting of multiple individual cells and the gene programs controlling them, act as a functional unit, and are the key to detecting the state of a tissue and predicting its future state or intervening therapeutically.", according to Herbert Schiller, Co-organizer.

The new DZL 3.0 funding period for the first time encourages researchers to investigate different lung disease in a cross-disciplinary and comparative manner using the new capabilities of Single Cell Genomics. The goal: Research groups that normally work on different lung diseases will cooperate closely in the application of new Single Cell Genomics methods and algorithms and gain new insights by comparing the diseases. 

Read a more detailed report on the symposium on our DZL site Munich website