Micro-scale biological tools that have allowed probing of individual cells--from the genetic, to proteomic, to phenotypic level--have revealed important contributions of single cells to direct normal and diseased body processes. In analyzing single cells, sample heterogeneity between and within specific cell types drives the need for high-throughput and quantitative measurement of cellular parameters. In recent years, high-throughput single-cell analysis platforms have revealed rare genetic subpopulations in growing tumors, begun to uncover the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and described the cell-to-cell variations in stem cell differentiation and immune cell response to activation by pathogens. This review surveys these recent technologies, presenting their strengths and contributions to the field, and identifies needs still unmet toward the development of high-throughput single-cell analysis tools to benefit life science research and clinical diagnostics.
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