Getting Hooked on MERFISH: A Core Lab’s Journey into Spatial Genomics

Biologists are always seeking cutting-edge technologies that enable them to make new discoveries. However, choosing the right technology can be a difficult journey for many organizations. Christina Baer, PhD, the Director of the Sanderson Center for Optical Experimentation (SCOPE) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester, MA, is regularly on this quest.

In a collaboration with Dorothy Schafer, PhD, an associate professor at UMMS, the goal was to bring spatial genomics to the SCOPE. Spatial genomics allows for cells to be evaluated within their intact native tissue environment while quantifying gene expression and providing the location of RNA transcripts within single cells. Baer shared, “The exciting thing to me is that we can finally start to understand the cellular organization underlying what we’re observing in the tissue. We knew how monumentally transformative it was going to be for biology.”

Baer and Schafer performed a comprehensive review of the technologies available to ensure they chose the right one. As a neuroscientist, Shafer was aware of the multiplexed error robust in situ hybridization (MERFISH) method. After watching a seminar on MERFISH, she was hooked.