Functional and genomic heterogeneity of individual cells are central players in a broad spectrum of normal and disease states. Our knowledge about the role of cellular heterogeneity in tissue and organism function remains limited due to analytical challenges one encounters when performing single cell studies in the context of cell-cell interactions. Information based on bulk samples represents ensemble averages over populations of cells, while data generated from isolated single cells do not account for intercellular interactions. We describe a new technology and demonstrate two important advantages over existing technologies: First, it enables multiparameter energy metabolism profiling of small cell populations (<100 cells)-A sample size that is at least an order of magnitude smaller than other, commercially available technologies; second, it can perform simultaneous real-time measurements of oxygen consumption rate (OCR), extracellular acidification rate (ECAR), and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP)-A capability not offered by any other commercially available technology. Our results revealed substantial diversity in response kinetics of the three analytes in dysplastic human epithelial esophageal cells and suggest the existence of varying cellular energy metabolism profiles and their kinetics among small populations of cells. The technology represents a powerful analytical tool for multiparameter studies of cellular function.
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