Research highlight

Identifying potential adult stem cells

Nature Cell Biology

November 28, 2011

A method based on counting single molecules in cells within an organism, helping to identify adult stem cells in tissues during homeostasis, ageing and regeneration, is reported online this week in Nature Cell Biology. Using a fluorescence-based method, Alexander van Oudenaarden and colleagues monitor the RNA transcripts of several genes previously associated with stem cell function in the mouse intestine, a tissue that actively regenerates in mammals throughout adult life. They find that transcripts of genes previously thought to mark distinct cells with specific proliferative and regenerative properties actually have overlapping expression and are found in the same cells. They also identify changes in the spatial expression of some molecular markers following tissue injury, indicating the potential involvement of the corresponding cells in regeneration; this is a hypothesis that will require further testing. This method should help researchers identify adult stem cells with regenerative properties in other mouse tissues, if complemented with functional approaches. Further work will be needed to discover whether this approach is transferable to human tissues.

doi: 10.1038/ncb2384

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