New color-coding tool sheds light on blood disorders, cancers by tracking clonal stem cells
News Medical Life Sciences
A new color-coding tool is enabling scientists to better track live blood stem cells over time, a key part of understanding how blood disorders and cancers like leukemia arise, report researchers in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Stem Cell Research Program.
In Nature Cell Biology they describe the use of their tool in zebrafish to track blood stem cells the fish are born with, the clones (copies) these cells make of themselves and the types of specialized blood cells they give rise to (red cells, white cells and platelets). Leonard Zon, MD, director of the Stem Cell Research Program and a senior author on the paper, believes the tool has many implications for hematology and cancer medicine since zebrafish are surprisingly similar to humans genetically.
“It’s like an RGB television set, where red, blue and green give you the whole spectrum of colors,” explains Zon. “In our system, the enzyme cuts out different parts —blue, for example, or green and blue — so the stem cell will end up a different shade of color. In this way, we were able to mark each stem cell being born with a different color, and then follow the colors through development and see how many stem cells of each color were present in the adult fish.”
Other scientists have developed tracking systems based on genetic “barcodes.” But these require dissecting the cells, so cannot analyze living, circulating cell populations.