Single-cell analysis heralds a new era that allows "omics" analysis, notably genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics and proteomics at the single-cell level. It enables the identification of the minor subpopulations that may play a critical role in a biological process of a population of cells, which conventionally are regarded as homogeneous. It provides an ultra-sensitive tool to clarify specific molecular mechanisms and pathways and reveal the nature of cell heterogeneity. It also facilitates the clinical investigation of patients when a very low quantity or a single cell is available for analysis, such as noninvasive prenatal diagnosis and cancer screening, and genetic evaluation for in vitro fertilization. Within a few short years, single-cell analysis, especially whole genomic sequencing and transcriptomic sequencing, is becoming robust and broadly accessible, although not yet a routine practice. Here, with single cell RNA-seq emphasized, an overview of the discipline, progresses, and prospects of single-cell analysis and its applications in biology and medicine are given with a series of logic and theoretical considerations.
Keywords: Omics; RNA-seq; Single-cell biology; Single-cell technology.