To describe what the 10X Genomics sequencing machine means to Dr. Jeff Wrana’s research, a picture is worth a thousand words
As a piece of equipment, it isn’t much to look at, but what it enables Dr. Jeff Wrana to see is nothing short of transformative. With support from donors and the Sinai Fund, Dr. Wrana and his team at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI) acquired a state-of-the-art sequencing machine enabling them to radically advance their genomics research.
Dr. Wrana, the CIBC Breast Cancer Research Scientist and Mary Janigan Research Chair in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, is focused on studying the underlying molecular connec-tions between early cell development, tissue regeneration and the causes of cancer and other diseases. The 10X Genomics sequencing machine represents a dramatic shift in how this research can be conducted — enabling new insights that will lead to better under-standing and treatment of diseases.
Compared to how molecular analysis was performed in the past, the difference with the 10X sequencing machine is night and day. Or, as Dr. Wrana describes, it’s the difference between a Jackson Pollock painting and a Georges Seurat pointillist painting. That is, where traditional techniques for molecular analysis required a more holistic view and some interpretation of what you were seeing, the new 10X machine allows you to isolate every single “dot” of the painting and analyze it individually. This single-cell analysis of complex tissues reveals rare cells that would otherwise be lost to observation, but which may be very important in causing or preventing diseases.
“Previously, you had to have special expertise to do this kind of analysis,” explains Dr. Wrana. “But this democratizes it, in a way. The technology can be used in a lot of applications. It can be applied to virtually everything.”
Dr. Wrana and his team are currently using the sequencing machine to study how tissue regeneration is controlled in the intestine, with the aim of improving our understanding and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
“The technology is allowing us to discover things you’d never see if you just took the ‘Jackson Pollock’ approach to analyzing tissue regeneration,” says Dr. Wrana. “It’s a complete paradigm shift.”
The $200,000 10X Genomics sequencing machine was acquired with funds from the Sinai Fund, a critical source of unrestricted donations supporting Sinai Health’s highest-priority initiatives, from essential equipment purchases and research operations to training and education — many of which are not funded by the health-care system. Sinai Fund donors, including Sinai Health’s dedicated monthly donors, play a vital role in Sinai Health’s ability to deliver world-class patient care and invest in groundbreaking research that improves treatment and saves lives.
Ruth Harvey, a monthly donor to the Sinai Fund since 2002, understands the importance of supporting Sinai Health’s most urgent needs. In 1988, Ruth’s husband was diagnosed with throat cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital. While the doctors back then couldn’t save his life, she was grateful for how the hospital staff treated him.
“For me, it’s simply about acknowledging that they were there when we needed them,” says Ruth. “Their treatment was so kind and so realistic that I shall always be grateful to Mount Sinai.”
To show her gratitude, she gives monthly to help advance research that can hopefully save other lives in the future.
“The Sinai Fund gives us the flexibility to acquire equipment much sooner than we could have otherwise,” says Dr. Wrana. “Not only is the equipment acquisition itself important, it has also enabled us to leverage this into other research grant funding, just because of what this equipment now allows us to do. There’s a lot of impact that these donations have.”