The University of Washington's Jay Shendure thinks science is underestimating how many types of cells there are in the human body, according to the New York Times.
"If you just Google this, the number everyone uses is 200. But to me that seems absurdly low," Shendure tells the Times.
So in order to more accurately estimate how many cell types there are and build a more comprehensive catalogue of human cell types, Shendure and his colleagues have developed a method capable of measure the activity of genes inside 42,035 cells at once, the Times says.
The study, published in Science on Thursday, describes this sci-RNA-seq (short for single-cell combinatorial indexing RNA sequencing) method, which uses molecular barcoding to identify RNA molecules inside cells and see which genes are active in which cells, allowing the researchers to differentiate the cells from one another.
"We came up with this scheme that allows us to look at very large numbers of cells at the same time, without ever isolating a single cell," Shendure tells the Times.