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New cell marking technique to help understand how our brain works

Date:
December 22, 2014
Source:
University of Southampton
Summary:
A new technique to mark individual brain cells to help improve our understanding of how the brain works has been developed by researchers. In neuroscience research, it is a challenge to individually label cells and to track them over space or time. Our brain has billions of cells and to be able to distinguish them at the single-cell level, and to modify their activity, is crucial to understand such a complex organ. The new marking technique, known as multicolour RGB tracking, allows single cells to be encoded with a heritable color mark generated by a random combination of the three basic colours (red, green and blue).
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Scientists from the University of Southampton have developed a new technique to mark individual brain cells to help improve our understanding of how the brain works.

In neuroscience research, it is a challenge to individually label cells and to track them over space or time. Our brain has billions of cells and to be able to distinguish them at the single-cell level, and to modify their activity, is crucial to understand such a complex organ.

The new marking technique, known as multicolor RGB tracking, allows single cells to be encoded with a heritable color mark generated by a random combination of the three basic colors (red, green and blue).

Brains are injected with a solution containing three viral vectors, each producing one fluorescent protein in each of the three colors. Each individual cell will take on a combination of the three colors to acquire a characteristic watermark. This approach allows researchers to color code cells that would otherwise not be visible and undistinguishable from each other.

Once the cell has been marked, the mark integrates into the DNA and will be expressed forever in that cell, as well as in any daughter cells.

Dr Diego Gomez-Nicola, a Career Track Lecturer and MRC NIRG Fellow in the Centre for Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton, who led the multicolor RGB tracking research, says: "With this technique, we have proved the effective spatial and temporal tracking of neural cells, as well as the analysis of cell progeny. This innovative approach is primarily focused to improve neuroscience research, from allowing analysis of clonality to the completion of effective live imaging at the single-cell level.

"We predict that the use of multicolor RGB tracking will have an impact on how neuroscientists around the world design their experiments. It will allow them to answer questions they were unable to tackle before and contribute to the progress of understanding how our brain works."

For the researchers, the next step is to change the physiology or identity of certain cells by driving multiple genetic modification of genes of interest with the RGB vectors. In the same way they made cells express fluorescent proteins, rese archers hope they can change the cell expression of target genes, which would underpin gene therapy-based therapeutic approaches.

The research, which is published in the journal Scientific Reports, was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the EU and Wessex Medical Research. The research also involved Professor Hugh Perry from the Centre for Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton and Professor Fehse and Dr Riecken from the University of Hamburg, Germany.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Diego Gomez-Nicola, Kristoffer Riecken, Boris Fehse, V. Hugh Perry. In-vivo RGB marking and multicolour single-cell tracking in the adult brain. Scientific Reports, 2014; 4: 7520 DOI: 10.1038/srep07520

Cite This Page:

University of Southampton. "New cell marking technique to help understand how our brain works." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 December 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222111734.htm>.
University of Southampton. (2014, December 22). New cell marking technique to help understand how our brain works. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 16, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222111734.htm
University of Southampton. "New cell marking technique to help understand how our brain works." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141222111734.htm (accessed July 16, 2024).

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