Genes edited to create color-coded stem cells

Stem cell
A cluster of human induced pluripotent stem cells contains dyes that highlight cell membranes (purple) and DNA in the nucleus (blue). Spindles from microtubules, shown in white at the center of the image, aid in cell division. (Allen Institute for Cell Science Photo)

Researchers in Seattle have taken advantage of two of the hottest trends in biotech – cell reprogramming and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing – to create human stem cells that glow as they turn into different tissue types.

The Allen Institute for Cell Science is making the genetically modified cells available to researchers around the world, with the aim of unlocking the secrets behind cell development.

“These are the first five cell lines in a collection of about 20 that we hope to be releasing in the next year,” Susanne Rafelski, the institute’s director of assay development, told GeekWire in advance of today’s unveiling of the Allen Cell Collection.

The institute’s executive director, Rick Horwitz, explained that each of the millions of cells in our body is like a city, with resources that move around from where they’re made to where they’re used.

“With these cell lines, we aim to give the cell science community a kind of live traffic map, to see when and where the parts of the cell are with the clarity and consistency they need to make progress toward understanding human health and tackling disease,” he said in a news release.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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