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This Week in Science: Jul 1, 2016

In Science this week, a group led by Karolinska Institute scientists report on a strategy for visualizing and analyzing gene expression in tissue sections using spatial transcriptomics. By positioning histological sections on arrayed reverse transcription primers with unique positional barcodes, the researchers generated high-quality RNA-sequencing data with maintained two-dimensional positional information in mouse brain tissue and human breast cancer tissue. The approach may prove valuable for gaining quantitative gene expression data and visualization of the distribution of mRNAs within tissue sections, the researchers say.

And in Science Translational Medicine, an international research group publishes data suggesting that clusters of tumor-derived cells found in the blood of cancer patients may not always be cancerous but, in some cases, belong to a special class of are endothelial cells shed by the tumors. In studying samples from colorectal cancer patients, the investigators discovered that these clusters of endothelial cells do not share the same genetic variations as matched tumors and are directly released from tumor vasculature. Analyses of these clusters showed that they could distinguish health volunteers from colorectal cancer patients with high accuracy, indicating that they may have potential utility in liquid biopsy-based cancer screens. Additionally, they may provide clinicians with insights about the underlying vasculature of tumors at different stages of patient treatment.