Biologists strive to understand life, but often they find themselves swamped with information. Studies of how genes switch on or off, known as gene expression, sometimes examine hundreds of genes at once, inside millions of single cells – useful information, but a headache to interpret. A new set of software, called Scanpy, applies automated analysis to these mountains of data. Looking like impressionist art, 1.3 million mouse brain cells are grouped or 'clustered' into colours and locations on this chart. Each cluster might correspond to changes in a different gene, or a relationship between different cells. But it’s not all about producing pretty graphs – patterns in this cloud of numbers may give clues to treating diseases, and Scanpy allows computers to learn to spot them. Machine learning algorithms can be plugged in to take the pressure of biologists surrounded by life’s complexity.
Written by John Ankers
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