Earlham Institute unveils new Vizgen platform for spatial transcriptomics

12 April 2023
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The Earlham Institute has added the Vizgen MERSCOPE® to its suite of technology platforms, supporting its research programmes in advanced cellular genomics.

The Institute is the first site in the UK to purchase the platform and will be among the first in Europe planning to apply the platform to the study of both model and non-model organisms, including plants. 

The system will help scientists at the Institute to answer fundamental research questions and also provide the UK bioscience community with access to this revolutionary technology for spatial analysis of gene expression. 

The MERSCOPE - based on multiplexed error-robust fluorescence in situ hybridization, or MERFISH, developed in Professor Xiaowei Zhuang’s lab at Harvard - is the first commercially available platform to enable researchers to perform highly multiplexed, spatially resolved measurements of gene expression. 

Dr Iain Macaulay, Technical Development Group Leader at the Earlham Institute, said: 

“Single-cell sequencing has become a standard part of our workflows to investigate cellular heterogeneity in complex living systems, but in these experiments information about where cells are - and what other cells they have contact with - is lost. 

“This platform allows us to measure the expression of hundreds of genes in situ with single-cell resolution, so we can investigate how different cell types are really organised within tissues. This has major applications throughout biology - from the study of human health and disease to the formation of developmental structures in plants.”


The Vizgen MERSCOPE equipment
The Vizgen MERSCOPE equipment

The MERSCOPE platform uses either pre-designed or custom panels of 140-500 genes to measure gene expression in cells over a 1 cm2 region with less than 100 nm resolution. Researchers can use both fresh-frozen or FFPE tissue to prepare thin sections for analysis on the platform. 

In parallel with pilot experiments in mammalian systems, Earlham Institute researchers will also focus on the generation of spatially-resolved gene expression measurements in plants. 

Dr Karim Gharbi, Head of Genomics Pipelines at the Earlham Institute, said: “Spatial transcriptomics is one of several emerging technologies that will complement ongoing efforts to scale capabilities in cellular genomics at the Earlham Institute. 

“We’re engaging with these technologies at pace to develop new and transformative tools for both the Institute and the wider bioscience community.” 

Dr Andy Goldson, Single-cell and Spatial Analysis Platforms manager at the Earlham Institute, said: “We’re delighted to be such an early adopter of the Vizgen platform. Spatial technologies will open up many new avenues of research - we are already seeing interest from researchers working on many different organisms and tissues. 

“Our aim is to make this platform as accessible as possible to the UK academic, biomedical, and biotechnology communities, and would encourage those interested to get in touch.” 

The acquisition of the Vizgen MERSCOPE was made possible by capital grant funding from the UKRI-Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). 

The Earlham Institute is home to the very latest technology platforms for single-cell and spatial analysis, supported and managed by highly experienced researchers. 

If you haven’t engaged with the Earlham Institute before, now is the time to get in touch and see how this combination of infrastructure and expertise can support your science.


Notes to editors.

For more information, please contact:

Greg Bowker

Head of Communications, Earlham Institute (EI)

 +44 (0)1603 450 895 / greg.bowker@earlham.ac.uk


About the Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute is a hub of life science research, training, and innovation focused on understanding the natural world through the lens of genomics. Embracing the full breadth of life on Earth, our scientists specialise in developing and testing the latest tools and approaches needed to decode living systems and make predictions about biology.

The Earlham Institute is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from UKRI Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC), as well as support from other research funders.

Tags: Technology