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Microfluidics-free single-cell genomics with templated emulsification


Current single-cell RNA-sequencing approaches have limitations that stem from the microfluidic devices or fluid handling steps required for sample processing. We develop a method that does not require specialized microfluidic devices, expertise or hardware. Our approach is based on particle-templated emulsification, which allows single-cell encapsulation and barcoding of cDNA in uniform droplet emulsions with only a vortexer. Particle-templated instant partition sequencing (PIP-seq) accommodates a wide range of emulsification formats, including microwell plates and large-volume conical tubes, enabling thousands of samples or millions of cells to be processed in minutes. We demonstrate that PIP-seq produces high-purity transcriptomes in mouse-human mixing studies, is compatible with multiomics measurements and can accurately characterize cell types in human breast tissue compared to a commercial microfluidic platform. Single-cell transcriptional profiling of mixed phenotype acute leukemia using PIP-seq reveals the emergence of heterogeneity within chemotherapy-resistant cell subsets that were hidden by standard immunophenotyping. PIP-seq is a simple, flexible and scalable next-generation workflow that extends single-cell sequencing to new applications.

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