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The added value of single-cell gene expression profiling

Stahlberg, A, Rusnakova, V, Kubista, M. The added value of single-cell gene expression profiling. Brief Funct Genomics, 12(2): 81-89, 2013. ISSN 2041-2649.


Cells are the basic unit of life and they have remarkable abilities to respond individually as well as in concert to internal and external stimuli in a specific manner. Studying complex tissues and whole organs requires understanding of cell heterogeneity and responses to stimuli at the single-cell level. In this review, we discuss the potential of single-cell gene expression profiling, focusing on data analysis and biological interpretation. We exemplify several aspects of the added value of single-cell analysis by comparing the same experimental data at both single-cell and cell population level. Data normalization and handling of missing data are two important steps in data analysis that are performed differently at single-cell level compared with cell population level. Furthermore, we discuss how single-cell gene expression data can be viewed and how subpopulations of cells can be identified and characterized.