Scientists Design Cellular Tracking System to Understand Development of Cells

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis scientists designed a cellular tracking system to understand the development of cells.

This cellular tracking system called 'flight data recorder' will give scientists a new view of how cells develop.

It will assist scientists to guide cells along the right paths to regenerate certain tissues or organs, or help researchers understand the wrong turns some cells might take on their way to becoming cancerous. Researchers are capable to study the original cells and the final cells in detail, but the pathways cells take to reach their destinations are unknown. Hence, using this cellular tracking system, scientists can study the development of cells.

The tool can be used to find out the potential of regenerative medicine, growing tissues and organs in labs.

The cellular tracking system could reveal cellular 'reprogramming' routes that might involve reverting skin cells back to different types of stem cells that could then mature into a new liver or other vital organ. The tool can be applied in cancer research, recording the wrong turns normal cells might take to develop into tumors.

Researchers are capable to identify the best 'pre-flight' conditions to expose the cells in order to enhance the likelihood.

Taking one cell population such as skin cells, and turn into a different cell population (i.e. intestinal cells) only about 1 percent of cells successfully reprogram.

The tracking system lets to check that if a cell starts down the right path to reprogramming very early in the process, all of its related sibling cells and their descendants are on the same page doing the same thing.

The technique harnesses the natural properties of a virus that inserts tiny DNA 'barcodes' called 'CellTags' into each cell.

Cells unique barcodes are passed down to all their descendant cells; when the cells divide. At several set time points during the 28-day cellular reprogramming window, new barcodes are added and a sample of the cells is analysed to see what they're doing at that waypoint.

The CellTagging technique helps to keep track of which cells share common ancestors and how far back that common ancestor is found in the lineage.