Super-resolution imaging offers fast way to discern fate of
Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a new way to identify the state and fate of individual stem cells earlier than previously possible. Stem cells are undifferentiated, serving as building blocks for the various tissues and organs of the body. Understanding a stem cell's fate -- the type of cell it will eventually become -- and how far along it is in that process can help scientists better manipulate cells for therapies.

To identify these signals of a stem cell's fate, an interdisciplinary team from multiple universities collaborated to use super-resolution microscopy to analyze epigenetic modifications. Epigenetic modifications change how DNA is wrapped up within the nucleus, allowing different genes to become accessible to the gene expression machinery within the cell. While the complete process remains somewhat mysterious, scientists have identified some epigenetic markings for pending gene expression. Using the new method, described in the Jan. 4, 2017, Scientific Reports, the team was able to determine a cell's fate days before other techniques.