Scientists map 'family tree' of cells

Li Qian
Shanghai scientists have mapped the "family tree" of cells in early mouse embryos, providing new approaches in stem cell therapy.
Li Qian

Shanghai scientists have mapped the “family tree” of cells in early mouse embryos, providing new approaches to stem cell therapy.

Life starts from one single cell, a fertilized egg. Then, it begins to divide and differentiate, and becomes trillions of cells to make up a whole body. 

However, it remains unknown why some cells develop into blood and bones, and others into skin and organs.

Local scientists have found a way to track the “ancestors” of cells in different parts of the body.

Scientists used the cutting-edge technique of laser microdissection to isolate and capture specific cells in early mouse embryos.

The samples retain rich information such as where and when they come from. By studying and analyzing the samples, scientists managed to map a high-resolution three-dimensional “family tree.”

The discovery helps people understand the cell differentiation in livers, pancreas and spinal cord, and provides new approaches for people to obtain stem cells for these organs in a more efficient way.

Stem cell therapies have been widely regarded as a very promising way to treat difficult diseases, especially in the blood, nerve and immune systems.

The research has uncovered where cells in certain body parts come from.

In the next stage, scientists will try to find out where these cells go, according to Jing Naihe, a lead researcher from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

The discovery was also jointly conducted by the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology and Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health under CAS.

It was published in the world’s leading scientific journal Nature.

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