New Way to Identify the State and Fate of Individual Stem Cells Discovered
Credit: Joseph Kim, PhD., Moghe lab, Rutgers University
Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a new way to identify the state and fate of individual stem cells earlier than previously possible. Stem cells are undifferentiated, serving as building blocks for the various tissues and organs of the body. Understanding a stem cell’s fate, the type of cell it will eventually become, and how far along it is in that process can help scientists better manipulate cells for therapies.
To identify these signals of a stem cell’s fate, an interdisciplinary team from multiple universities collaborated to use super-resolution microscopy to analyse epigenetic modifications. Epigenetic modifications change how DNA is wrapped up within the nucleus, allowing different genes to become accessible to the gene expression machinery within the cell. While the complete process remains somewhat mysterious, scientists have identified some epigenetic markings for pending gene expression. Using the new method, described in the Jan. 4, 2017, Scientific Reports, the team was able to determine a cell’s fate days before other techniques.
“This group honed and combined several techniques to deliver a powerful new tool for assessing stem cell fate.” says Rosemarie Hunziker, Ph.D., director of the program in Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of NIH. “Early predictions of gene expression within individual stem cells will ultimately help us sort them and use them.”
Existing approaches to assess the states of stem cells look at the overall population of cells but aren’t specific enough to identify the fates of individual cells. Also, current tools can only identify these fate decisions relatively late in the game. To develop therapies with maximum control and flexibility, researchers must have a good idea of how a cell will further develop once it is transplanted into a patient. An ideal solution would be a technology to predict the imminent activation of a particular gene or gene family, that in turn causes the cell serve a particular function.
In the new approach, called EDICTS (Epi-mark Descriptor Imaging of Cell Transitional States), the researchers labelled epigenetic modifications and then imaged the cells with super resolution to see the precise location of the marks.
“We’re able to demarcate and catch changes in these cells that are actually not distinguished by established techniques,” says Prabhas Moghe, Ph.D., distinguished professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers University and senior author of the paper. He describes the method as “fingerprinting the guts of the cell;” the results are quantifiable descriptors of each cell’s organization, even revealing how particular modifications are distributed throughout the nuclei.
The team demonstrated the method’s capabilities by measuring two types of epigenetic modifications in the nuclei of human stem cells cultured in the laboratory. They added chemicals that coaxed some of the cells to become fat cells and others to become bone, while another set served as control. Within three days, cells destined for different fates showed modifications at various locations within the cells. These changes gave researchers the opportunity to distinguish the cell types days before traditional methods could make such distinctions.
The technique had the specificity to look at regional changes within individual cells, while existing techniques can only measure total levels of modifications among the entire population of cells. “The levels are not significantly different, but how they’re organized is different and that seems to correlate with the fact that these cells are actually exhibiting different fates,” says Moghe. “It allows us to take out a single cell from a population of dissimilar cells,” which can help researchers select particular cells for different stem cell applications.
The method is simple and versatility. It’s as easy as labelling, staining and imaging cells, techniques already familiar to many researchers. As microscopes capable of super-resolution imaging become more widely available, scientists can use it to sort and screen different types of cells, understand how a particular drug may disrupt epigenetic signalling, or ensure that stem cells to be implanted are not at risk of transforming into the wrong cell type. “It will usher in the next wave of studies and findings,” says Moghe.
Kim, J. J., Bennett, N. K., Devita, M. S., Chahar, S., Viswanath, S., Lee, E. A., … Moghe, P. V. (2017). Optical high content Nanoscopy of epigenetic marks Decodes Phenotypic divergence in stem cells. Scientific Reports, 7, 39406. doi:10.1038/srep39406
This article has been republished from materials provided by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering . Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Cryo-EM Reveals Interaction Between Major Drug TargetsNews
For the first time, scientists have visualized the interaction between two critical components of the body's vast cellular communication network, a discovery that could lead to more effective medications with fewer side effects for conditions ranging from migraine to cancer.READ MORE
The Friedrich Schiller University Jena Partners with ACD/Labs to Advance its Analytical Data Management StrategyNews
Implementation of ACD/Spectrus as an analytical data management system helps researchers and students streamline NMR and MS data processing, interpretation, collaboration, and training.READ MORE
Olympus Image of the Year – Celebrating Art in ScienceNews
Inspired by the beauty and breadth of images submitted for Image of the Year 2017, Olympus continues its quest for the best light microscopy art in 2018. For the chance to win a microscope or camera, applicants can now submit life science light microscopy images taken with Olympus equipment.READ MORE
Comments | 0 ADD COMMENT
27th International Conference on Nanomedicine and Nanomaterials
Oct 18 - Oct 19, 2018
International Conference on Central Nervous System and Therapeutics
Nov 12 - Nov 14, 2018