Spatially diving into the cells: Seoul National University team develops new technology for cancer stem cell analysis

A research team led by Professor Sunghoon Kwon from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Professor Wonshik Han from the College of Medicine at Seoul National University developed a technology to analyze modified RNA specifically expressed in cancer stem cells.

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When cancer stem cells, which are very rare in cancer tissues, survive after chemotherapy, it causes cancer to remain or recur. However, due to the characteristics of cancer stem cells, which account for a very small number of cells constituting the entire cancer tissue, a technology to selectively isolate them was needed. Developing new drugs was difficult. In particular, while selectively isolating cancer stem cells, the location of cancer stem cells in the space of the entire cancer tissue and interactions with certain cells can have various effects on the patient. Thus technology that can selectively separate the cancer stem cells while maintaining spatial information had to be developed.


The new spatial transcriptomics technology, jointly developed by the research team of Professor Sunghoon Kwon of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Seoul National University and the research team of Professor Wonshik Han of the College of Medicine at Seoul National University, spatially separates and selectively analyzes cancer stem cells in cancer tissues to derive new drug targets. As the Method of the year selected by Nature Methods in 2020, new technologies in the spatial transcriptome have attracted global attention. The technology jointly developed by this research team is a technology that can selectively isolate desired cells while maintaining spatial information.


Using this, the characteristics of cancer stem cells present in triple negative breast cancer with poor prognosis were identified, and it is expected that an RNA therapeutic agent or anticancer vaccine that can target and treat them can be developed.


This research was conducted with the support of the Basic Research Project (Leader Research) of the Ministry of Science and ICT, and was published in the world-renowned academic journal Nature Communications.

Amos Lee

Postdoctoral researcher, Seoul National University