Spatial Transcriptomics of Skin to Augment Understanding of Cellular Interactions and Disease Propagation in Juvenile Scleroderma

Kathryn Torok, MD
Wei Chen, PhD

University of Pittsburgh

About Dr. TorokAbout Dr. Chen

Drs. Torok and Chen will use spatial transcriptomics in combination with single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) to analyze skin biopsies from a range of juvenile-onset scleroderma patients. Spatial transcriptomics allows researchers to measure gene activity (transcription) in a tissue sample and to map where in the tissue the activity is occurring.

This enables detection and visualization of specific cell types and their gene expression within a tissue, assessment of disease-associated changes to the tissue as a whole or to specific cells within the tissue, and the location of immune cells within the tissue. Because the function of a cell is highly dependent upon its interactions with neighboring cells, spatial transcriptomics can complement the more detailed information that is obtained by scRNA-seq, providing a snapshot of “who is talking to whom” at a cellular level.

Drs. Torok and Chen will analyze skin samples from juvenile-onset systemic sclerosis patients pre- and post-autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) and localized scleroderma patients pre- and post-treatment with methotrexate. They will also look at affected and unaffected adjacent skin in localized scleroderma.

Together, these analyses will provide a look at shifts in cell abundance, activity (gene expression), and location pre- and post-treatment as well as in affected as compared to unaffected skin in juvenile-onset scleroderma patients.

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