Dr. Leonid Moroz is a researcher of comparative neurobiology at the University of Florida. Among his research interests is the use of the sea slug Aplysia Californica as a model for simple neuronal differentiation which then can be compared to high-order mollusks. He hypothesizes that parallel evolution of several ancestral cell lineages unite to form a brain in higher-order invertebrates. A collaborator spoke about their single-cell transcriptome sequencing work at the February 2014 Advances in Genome Technology and Biology meeting in Marco Island, Florida, where a poster was also presented. Dr. Moroz has also published a methods paper on single-cell RNA-Seq using semiconductor sequencing.
Another interest of Dr. Moroz is neurological regeneration in ctenophores (colloquially known as ‘comb jellies’), which regenerate their primitive brain in its entirety after only a few days.
In a novel approach, Dr. Moroz installed an Ion PGM™ system on a donated research vessel, collected samples in the open ocean, did his dissections and RNA purifications on-board, then constructed RNA-Seq libraries and sequenced them on Ion 318™ chips. (His laboratory technicians note the difficulty of handling their pipettes while the ship is pitching and rolling in rough seas.)
Previously Dr. Moroz determined that he could get 85% of the genes detected from his samples with only 300,000 reads per sample, so using the Ion PGM™ system instead of the Ion Proton™ system made sense, multiplexing up to 16 samples per Ion 318™ Chip. After base-calling and mapping to reference (on the ship) with Torrent Suite™ software on an Ion server, he used a satellite uplink to transfer the BAM files back to the University of Florida, where a supercomputer carried out the differential gene analysis. He was then able to examine the analyzed data while still at sea.
His Ion PGM™ system easily accommodated sequencing on the open ocean since it is a solid-state, semiconductor-based sequencing system. He did put the Ion PGM™ system on a vibration table to shield it against the sharpest bumps, but this is an instance where an optical system simply would not work effectively.