Within cells, a complex interplay takes place between the various types of biomolecules or omics layers (i.e., the genome, epigenome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome) to install the cell's identity and function. For this, also communication with neighbouring cells is important. Investigation of this molecular hierarchy and tissue architecture at individual cell level is necessary to develop fundamental understanding of the cell biology of all living organisms in health and disease, and thus to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.
The KU Leuven Institute for Single Cell Omics (LISCO) aims to develop innovative single-cell omics technologies to enable breakthrough biomedical and biological science that transcends an individual research lab. It therefore unites more than 55 research groups from KU Leuven, VIB-KU Leuven and UZ Leuven. By bringing together synergistic expertise from different disciplines, such as molecular biology, biochemistry, imaging, bioinformatics, microfluidics and robotics, LISCO develops end-to-end workflows for high-throughput single-cell multi-omics, as well as a spatial multi-omics platform to comprehensively study cells in their native tissular context. This also includes the development of the computational methods needed to analyze and integrate the generated single-cell and/or spatial omics data. We apply those technologies in high-impact biomedical and biological research, to understand human development, normal physiological organic processes, functional decline of tissues with ageing, and disease processes, and similarly in other multicellular organisms (ranging from model and non-model organisms to plants) down to communities of unicellular life forms. Such studies expose mechanisms of disease etiopathogenesis and drug mode of action, leading to the discovery of biomarkers for disease diagnosis and therapy response and guiding the design of novel and personalized therapies.
Overall, LISCO presents an interdisciplinary R&D platform, uniting a wide range of expertise and infrastructure for single-cell and spatial multi-omics. It creates a framework for academic as well as industrial collaboration, with multiple focused co-development projects and translational studies ongoing. LISCO also provides services to internal and external parties, and offers training to the next generation of researchers.