CRISPR Barcodes for Whole-Organism, Cell-by-Cell Lineage Histories

May 25, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 3 minutes

This week's Lab.Equipment Bio Tech news is sourced from GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News:

Every organism has its own family tree. And like any family tree, an organism’s family tree is more interesting if it’s both complete and richly detailed. That is, each member of the family tree should be displayed in their proper place along with some biographical information. In the case of an organism—a mouse, for example—the family tree’s members are individual cells, and the biographical information consists of gene expression profiles.

If comprehensive whole-organism family trees could be assembled, researchers would learn a lot about development, aging, and disease. Unfortunately, family trees that trace tissue or organism development have been limited to small groups of cells or rendered vaguely suspect, due to distortions attributed to intrusive cell assessment techniques.

The good news is that a new technology has been developed that can serve as a sort of for an organism’s cells. That is, it promises to couple cell ancestry information with detailed molecular readouts, such as transcriptional signatures.

The technology, which is called CRISPR Array Repair Lineage tracing (CARLIN), was developed by scientists at the Stem Cell Research program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School. It can be used to track every cell in the body, from the embryonic stage until adulthood.

Using a “barcoding” technique and CRISPR gene editing technology, CARLIN can identify different cell types as they emerge and what genes each is turning on. Details about CALIN emerged May 14 in the journal Cell, in an article entitled, “An Engineered CRISPR-Cas9 Mouse Line for Simultaneous Readout of Lineage Histories and Gene Expression Profiles in Single Cells.”

“This mod... More of this in the GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News Blog.

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