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First ‘cell map’ of 20,000 cells in mammalian embryo

Posted on 11/01/2018

Cutting-edge technology to profile over 20,000 individual cells

Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Scientists at the Wellcome – MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute have used cutting-edge technology to profile over 20,000 individual cells to produce the first ‘cell map’ describing all the major cell types present at the early stage of mammalian embryo development. The researchers used the map to identify an important new pathway involved in blood cell development and say the map could open up new avenues for medicine and drug development.

The new research, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, used pioneering single-cell technology to study the genetic activity of over 20,000 individual cells present in the mouse embryo at an early stage of development when major organs such as the heart and brain are forming.

The patterns of genetic activity in the developing embryo were captured in the new ‘cell map’ that will help scientists understand how cells grow and acquire all the various specialised functions required for the body to function.

The team demonstrated the utility of their platform by identifying a new pathway involved in early blood cell development. Blood cells mature in the embryo along with other tissues such as the heart, muscles, veins and arteries, however there are still major knowledge gaps in these areas.

This work was funded by Wellcome, the MRC, Cancer Research UK, Bloodwise, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the National Institutes of Health.

For more information, visit the MRC website.