A new method can illuminate the identities and activities of cells throughout an organ or a tumor at unprecedented resolution, according to a study co-led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian and the New York Genome Center.

The method, described Jan. 2 in a paper in Nature Biotechnology, records gene activity patterns and the presence of key proteins in cells across tissue samples, while retaining information about the cells’ precise locations

This enables the creation of complex, data-rich “maps” of organs, including diseased organs and tumors, which could be widely useful in basic and clinical research.

“This technology is exciting because it allows us to map the spatial organization of tissues, including cell types, cell activities and cell-to-cell interactions, as never before,” said study co-senior author Dr. Dan Landau,

The other co-senior author was Dr. Marlon Stoeckius of 10x Genomics, a California-based biotechnology company that makes laboratory equipment for the profiling of cells within tissue samples.

The three co-first authors were Dr. Nir Ben-Chetrit, Xiang Niu, and Ariel Swett, respectively a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, and research technician in the Landau laboratory during the study.

The new method is part of a broad effort by scientists and engineers to develop better ways of “seeing” at micro scale how organs and tissues work.

Researchers in recent years have made big advances particularly in techniques for profiling gene activity and other layers of information in individual cells or small groups of cells.