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Celebrating 1,000 spatial biology publications: From mapping cells and profiling tumors to uncovering new precision medicine strategies

As a scientist, you are passionate about exploring uncharted paths. At the same time, you want your studies to be built on proven technologies that will carry you into the unknown confidently. You want to leverage tools and methods that have withstood the test of time – across thousands of experiments – and have generated significant peer-reviewed results.

That’s why we are thrilled to share that, as of July 2023, Akoya’s technologies have been cited more than 1,000 times across Nature, Frontiers, Cell, and other scientific publications. Combined with the April 2023 announcement about our 1,000th instrument shipment – resulting in what is now the largest spatial biology installed base – it‘s clear (and incredibly gratifying to see) that scientists worldwide are increasingly choosing Akoya as their trusted spatial biology partner.

Arutha 1000 publications quote

Here is a brief high-level look at this impressive pack of papers as we celebrate some of the inspiring science and technology they contain. Stay tuned for more deep dives to come. 

Mapping cells and elucidating tissue microenvironments with the high-plex PhenoCycler platform

35% of the PhenoCycler (formerly CODEX) related publications are from just the past 6 months, a testament to the rapid adoption of the technology.

Taking a closer look, we see many studies exploring up to 40, 50, and 60 markers on a single tissue section. One pre-print (not included in our count of 1,000 published citations) even demonstrates the feasibility of 100+ marker studies. Scientists are leveraging this high-plex capability to elucidate tissue microenvironments in great detail. Paired with the PhenoCycler’s speed (it can map a million cells in ten minutes) and unbiased whole-slide imaging approach, users are getting rich, never-before-seen views into immune landscapes, metabolic activity, vascularization and angiogenesis, and more – all at single-cell resolution on the same tissue section.

Many immuno-oncology researchers in particular are finding the PhenoCycler platform invaluable for profiling tumor microenvironments (TME). If you’d like to learn more about this application, check out this webinar where Dr. Arutha Kulasinghe (@aruthak) of the University of Queensland discusses the innovative spatial biology methods he is using to study head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). He also shares novel insights he has uncovered from his latest studies and how his findings may inform new precision medicine strategies.

Although applications in oncology research abound, the PhenoCycler platform is not limited to that area of inquiry. As featured in Frontiers of Immunology, Dr. Sizun Jiang (@SizunJ) of Stanford University and colleagues used a 21-plex protein panel to elucidate host-immune response to Ebola infection in non-human primate models. This study provides insights that will be invaluable for tackling future disease outbreaks. We also see a great deal of interest from scientists working on cell mapping initiatives. Dr. John Hickey (@johnhickey22) of Stanford University and colleagues from the HuBMAP consortium were recently featured on the cover of Nature for their work developing the first ever spatial map of the human intestine at a single-cell level. This achievement will spur greater understanding of the human gut and pave the way for novel therapies for gastrointestinal diseases.

Translating discoveries to biomarkers and precision health strategies with the PhenoImager platform

The PhenoImager (formerly Phenoptics, Vectra, and Mantra) studies primarily interrogate three to six markers at a time with a large number of samples processed, ranging from a dozen to 100+ tissues per study. Taking a closer look, the reason becomes clear as many of these efforts are aimed at biomarker development, and they are often conducted in the context of later stage pre-clinical studies as well as phase I and phase II trials. The PhenoImager HT platform enables this quite well thanks to its high-resolution imaging capability, high throughput, and reliability.

The majority of citations are concerned with oncology research. For example, as featured on the cover of Nature Cancer in August 2021, Dr. Lucile Vanhersecke (@VanherseckeL) of Institut Bergonié and colleagues used a 5-marker panel (CD4, CD8, CD20, CD21 and CD23) to demonstrate that mature tertiary lymphoid structures (mTLS) predict immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) efficacy across many solid tumors. These findings hold promising implications for improving ICI therapy outcomes and also present a case for further exploring the mechanisms of B cell involvement in ICI therapy response. Later that same year, Dr. Victor Arrieta (@VictorA_Arrieta) of Northwestern University and colleagues published a study in Nature Cancer demonstrating that ERK1/2 phosphorylation is predictive of overall survival following adjuvant PD-1 blockade in recurrent glioblastoma. To learn more about this work, check out our upcoming webinar featuring Dr. Arrieta.

We also see many applications beyond oncology. In a study published in Nature Communications in 2022, Dr. Wei Qiao of the University of Hong Kong and colleagues used the PhenoImager platform to explore how SAR-CoV-2 infection impacts bone loss. This is a critical step in understanding COVID-19 more comprehensively and may serve as a useful model for exploring other extrapulmonary complications of the disease. A more recent example, published in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine in March 2023, features Dr. Alexander Staal (Radboud University) and colleagues’ exploration of how inflammatory processes may play a role in aneurism formation. In this study, researchers leveraged two different multiplex panels: one for the detection of lymphocytes and dendritic cells and another for myeloid cells and vascularization. 

Stay tuned... there’s more science to celebrate

We hope these vignettes have left you inspired and excited to hear more, because today we are kicking off a blog series aimed at celebrating all the amazing science featured in these 1,000+ publications. Over the coming weeks, we will share deep dives into select papers, Q&As with the researchers, and a database where you can check out every single publication for yourself.

In the meantime, we invite you to join these two webinars covering some of the high-impact work featured in this blog post:

If you would like to speak with an Akoya specialist about introducing our spatial biology technologies into your research, or you have published a study leveraging Akoya technologies and would like to have your work featured on our website, get in touch.

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