Since slide-sequencing was developed in 2019 in the academic labs of Evan Macosko, MD, PhD, and Fei Chen, PhD, the technology has been making waves for its ease of use and high resolution. GEN covered several studies last year that applied the technology, including this Nature study that comprehensively mapped cell types in the mouse brain. Using spatial and single genome data, the scientists identified about 90% of all cell populations including regions of cellular diversity within the midbrain, pons, medulla, and hypothalamus. Scientists were also tapping the technology to study model organisms like planaria and axolotls as well as to help build a reference atlas that maps gene expression in 24 human tissues and organs including lungs, skin, heart, and blood.  

Macosko and Chen and other co-founders launched Curio Bioscience in 2021 to commercialize slide-sequencing, and launched their first product, Curio Seeker, in 2023. As of November 2023, Curio claimed that it had over 100 customers using its technology. This week, Curio unveiled plans to expand its portfolio by announcing an early access program (EAP) to test its latest product Trekker, a commercial version of its slide-tag technology, also developed in the labs of Chen and Macosko, that aims to bring spatial data to the single cell genomics market.  

Chen discussed slide-tags during a presentation at the 2023 Single Cell and AI in Medicine Symposium (SCAIM23). He described slide-tags as a combination of high-throughput single-cell genomics and single-nucleus barcoding. A more detailed description is available in another Nature paper published in December 2023, where the researchers define slide-tags as a strategy “in which single nuclei within an intact tissue section are tagged with spatial barcode oligonucleotides derived from DNA-barcoded beads with known positions. These tagged nuclei can then be used as an input into a wide variety of single-nucleus profiling assays.” Furthermore, the researchers showed that slide-tags could be used in both mouse and human tissues by performing assays on samples from the brain and tonsils as well as melanoma cells.  

Some of the advantages of slide-tags are its compatibility with fresh frozen tissue sections and that ability to add “spatially resolved data without requiring specialized equipment or sacrificing data quality,” the researchers wrote. “The technique generates data intrinsically at the single-cell resolution, without the need for deconvolution and segmentation, and has a high sensitivity.” Other benefits include the ability to profile multiple tissue sections simultaneously, cover large tissue sections, and its adaptability to single-cell and single-nucleus methodologies.  

Curio has begun accepting pre-orders for the first commercial slide-tag kits. The company plans to officially launch Trekker this spring. And they are optimistic about its potential to add value to the single cell sequencing space.  

“Single-cell sequencing has been an incredibly impactful technology for profiling cell populations, but the research community has been eager to understand how cells of interest are organized spatially, so we set out to develop a method that delivers this,” said Macosko, who is also a researcher at the Broad Institute’s Center for Psychiatric Research and an associate professor psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Curio Trekker is the culmination of this work and provides the spatial context that single-cell researchers are lacking today in a readily accessible format. CurioBioscience has made it as easy to use as simply plugging it right into existing single cell-based workflows.” 

Christina Fan, PhD, Curio’s co-founder and CTO, added, “Curio is putting a very accessible and powerful new tool in the hands of researchers to advance discovery research in a way that is very exciting for cancer biology, neuroscience, developmental sciences, and beyond. We believe that CurioTrekker will be transformative to the single-cell market, as it delivers true single cell spatial resolution to scientists, regardless of organism or tissue type.” 

One EAP participant, Neil Henderson, MD, PhD, chair of tissue repair and regeneration and Wellcome Trust senior research fellow in clinical science at the University of Edinburgh, noted, “We’re excited to trial the Curio Trekker spatial mapping kit. This one-hour protocol upstream of our standard single-nuclei RNA-sequencing assays should greatly facilitate our ability to interrogate the key cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating the human liver fibrotic niche.” 

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