Barcodes to Help Trace Cell Development

Barcodes to Help Trace Cell Development

Studying the human body in detail at the cell development level is quite difficult, especially when it comes to keeping a track of how the cells develop into different types in the long run. The development may seem like the branching out of trees.If the blood component is considered,it comprises the stem cells and the various types of progenitor cells that later develop into different cell types. The different blood cells include white blood cells, red blood cells, blood platelets, and others that are the part of the immune system. Is studying the intricate blood components possible?

Thus, the scientist Hans-Reimer Rodewald from the German Cancer Research Center and his colleagues have been waiting to study the blood cell formation events since a long time rather than just capturing mere snapshots of the events. In order to give their dreams wings, they teamed up with a researcher Thomas Höfer and developed a technology that could help follow the developmental tracks of the cells. To carry out this study, they labeled the stem cells with a genetic barcode so as to make the identification of its offspring easier.

Earlier, the genetic barcodes developed brought about changes in the cellular properties. Hence, the recent developed barcode is not only different but also well-efficient. It can be induced tissue specifically as well as directly into the genome without any influence on the physiological development. The new technology used is named “Cre/IoxP system” that helps perform the rearrangement and removal of the specially labeled DNA segments with great precision.


The barcode has been developed using mice genome and a plant DNA fragment. The nine DNA fragment with no genes encoded from the plant called Arabidopsis thaliana were flanked with ten genetic cutting sites named IoxP sites. And with using a pharmacological agent Cre, a molecular scissor, can be activated in the hematopoietic stem cells.This developed code element can be removed or rearranged as per convenience. The developed genetic indiscriminate DNA barcode generator can develop about 1.8 Million genetic barcode offsprings that can be identified later. Even though the hematopoietic stem cells divide and mature the barcodes still remain intact and preserved such that the barcode analyses can be carried out to trace the individual blood cells along with its originator.

Thus, the studying of the blood cell branching including the T cells, B cells and the red blood cells as well as various typed of white blood cells can be made possible using the new technology. The hierarchical developmental tree can be analyzed along with the origin the multipotent stem cell.In the future, the new technology can thus be strategically applied in any tissue so as to trace the origin of cancers.

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