VIB leads by example in single-cell research

22 September 2018
VIB, Verge Genomics and UC San Diego unite against Parkinson's disease 

Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company utilizing machine learning to develop new therapeutics, launched an initiative to study gene expression in the brains of Parkinson’s patients at single-cell resolution, generating the first dataset of its kind in the field. To do this, the company joins forces with VIB and the University of California San Diego.

An unprecedented glimpse into disease progression
Growing evidence shows that neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s result from multiple interacting cell types, each contributing in their unique way. But datasets that capture gene expression changes across individual cell types in patients and healthy people don’t exist yet.
That’s what the consortium wants to change: using the latest single-cell sequencing technologies, the team will analyze gene expression in individual cells of brain tissue from people with and without Parkinson’s disease, making it possible to assess how gene activity changes in the disease across multiple
cell types.

A strong partnership
The secret to the project is the unique combination of expertise and resources in the consortium. With the VIB Single Cell Accelerator’s cutting-edge single-nucleus RNA sequencing technology, UC San Diego’s outstanding collection of tissue from patients and their families, and Verge’s machine-learning platform to generate and analyze new types of patient data at a resolution only recently made possible, the team is armed for battle.

Matthew Holt, group leader at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research, is excited to be part of the initiative: “Single-cell technology is advancing rapidly, opening up new opportunities for us to understand how the healthy brain functions and what goes wrong in disease. Our collaboration with Verge and UC San Diego places us at the forefront of this field and will allow us to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson’s disease at an unprecedented level.

“Currently, the only approved treatments for Parkinson’s disease address its symptoms, but do not prevent the illness or halt its progression. We hope this project will accelerate the development of effective treatments for this incurable disease.”


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   'Single Cell at ​​VIB'​
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Matthew Holt