Scientists color code neurons for spatial and temporal tracking

From University of Southampton News release:

New cell marking technique to help understand how our brain works

22 December 2014

 

RGB tracing of newborn neurons

Scientists from the University of Southampton have colour marked 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 multicolour RGB tracking, allows single cells to be encoded with a heritable colour mark generated by a random combination of the three basic colours (red, green and blue).
Brains are injected with a solution containing three viral vectors, each producing one fluorescent protein in each of the three colours. Each individual cell will take on a combination of the three colours to acquire a characteristic watermark. This approach allows researchers to colour 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 multicolour 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 multicolour 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.”

Read more.

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