Human bone marrow

Single Cells

Cross-Cutting Area at the Max Delbrück Center


The human body consists of trillions of cells, but a mutation in one of them can cause cancer. This example demonstrates that biology is not a process driven by averages and highlights the importance of single cell-level studies. The last years have seen a rapid expansion of the field of single-cell genomics, which has enabled paradigm shifts in many fields of biological sciences, ranging from evolutionary biology over stem cell biology to cancer research.

The cross-cutting area Single-cell technologies aims at bringing together single cell researchers from different disciplines to enable scientific exchange and foster new cross-topic collaborations. Research within the Single-cell technologies cross-cutting area develops and applies high-throughput technologies (“omics”) capable of the complete coverage of genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes, and metabolomes of cells at sensitivities permitting single-cell resolution.


About the header image
Hematopoietic stem cells

Using single-cell biology, Simon Haas' team has discovered a mechanism that helps the body protect itself against blood cancer. The image shows the natural environment of hematopoietic stem cells, the bone marrow: bone in green, nuclei of bone marrow cells in blue and stromal niche cells in red.

Further information

Projects & Collaborations

Joint focus area of BIH/Charité/MDC

Single cell approaches for personalized medicine is a research focus of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Max Delbrück Center to make highly innovative single cell approaches clinically usable for effective translation as quickly as possible. 

Single cell approaches for personalized medicine 

Lifetime Initiative

Single cell approaches are providing new ways of understanding the complex relationships and interactions between cells and show great potential to allow the identification of molecular disease trajectories at the single cell resolution. With this knowledge new models of early disease detection, diagnosis and therapeutic interception can be leveraged. This new approach to medicine – called cell-based interceptive medicine. The MDC strives to develop a new AI-based biomedical innovation ecosystem to implement cell-based interceptive medicine. The vision and implementation plan for this innovative and promising concept in the field of precision medicine was developed by the LifeTime Initiative comprising 200 European institutions and coordinated by the MDC. This includes building and further developing regional translation centers with dedicated transfer structures to foster integrative cross-sectorial networking (Berlin Cell hospital), and collaborative R&D projects with industry partners (Virchow 2.0 network).

Berlin Cell Hospital

The Berlin Cell Hospital (BCH) was founded in October 2021 and brings together biomedical partners in Berlin pursuing the joint goal of implementing cell-based interceptive medicine to the benefit of the patient. The BCH is a research and clinical institution that is dedicated to developing and providing new cell-based therapies for a wide range of diseases.

The BCH's interceptive medicine approach aims to detect and intervene in diseases at the earliest possible stage, before they cause any symptoms or damage. This is done applying innovative technologies to study cell trajectories with spatial and single cell resolution. These insights will be leveraged to develop novel diagnostic tools, biomarkers for make therapies more effective and new drug targets to intercept disease before irreversible damage occurs.

At the core of the BCH, the joint BIH/Charité/MDC focus area “Single cell approaches for personalized medicine” has been established with the recruitment of 4 technology driven research groups who develop and apply, together with their clinical partners, single cell technologies to clinically relevant questions.


The MSTARS young investigator group leader Fabian Coscia combines digital pathology workflows with highly sensitive MS techniques to generate proteome data with unprecedented biological resolution. This concept allows the spatially-resolved analysis of tumor cells in the complex tissue environment, considering tumor subpopulations and cells of the tumor microenvironment.

MSTARS project website

CRC1588 Decoding and Targeting Mechanisms of Neuroblastoma Evolution

Among childhood cancers, neuroblastoma is the third most common type of malignant tumour. Due to therapy resistance and early metastasis, relapses are frequent and the mortality rate is therefore high. According to the latest molecular findings, this is due to the unusually complex process of tumour development. The research network now plans to comprehensively analyze neuroblastoma tissue cell by cell using single-cell approaches to catalog what happens in the tumor cells at the level of DNA, RNA, epigenetics and proteins. The use of artificial intelligence will then help to identify new targets for targeted combination therapies. To this end, the research network combines the relevant expertise of scientists at Charité, the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH), the Max Delbrück Center, the University of Cologne, Julius Maximilian University Würzburg (JMU), Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). 

CRC1588 website


Training & Events

Single cells in focus – a Berlin symposia series

This symposia series organized by the BIH/Charité/MDC focus area “Single cell approaches for personalized medicine” invites single cell enthusiasts from Berlin to share their latest research and applications using single cell methodologies with the Berlin community. Keynote lecturers are invited to share their work and present next to early career researchers. 

Details on the event

Innovations in Single cell omics

The ISCO conference is co-organized by leading centres for genomic and biomedical research in Berlin and Barcelona and brings together young single cell researchers from different disciplines to enable scientific exchange and foster new international collaborations. Topics are innovations in single-cell and spatially-resolved technologies, new computational approaches and applications in the medical arena. ISCO puts special emphasis on providing networking opportunities for PhD students and postdocs, with a large number of talks from selected abstract and a poster session.

Conference website