Saturday, 3 Dec 2022

See-through zebrafish, new imaging method put blood stem cells in high-resolution spotlight

For the first time, researchers can get a high-resolution view of single blood stem cells thanks to a little help from microscopy and zebrafish.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California San Diego have developed a method for scientists to track a single blood stem cell in a live organism and then describe the ultrastructure, or architecture, of that same cell using electron microscopy. This new technique will aid researchers as they develop therapies for blood diseases and cancers.

“Currently, we look at stem cells in tissues with a limited number of markers and at low resolution, but we are missing so much information,” says Owen Tamplin, an assistant professor in UW-Madison’s Department of Cell & Regenerative Biology, a member of the Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center, and a co-author on the new study, which was published Aug. 9 in eLife. “Using our new techniques, we can now see not only the stem cell, but also all the surrounding niche cells that are in contact.”

The niche is a microenvironment found within tissues like the bone marrow that contain the blood stem cells that support the blood system. The niche is where specialized interactions between blood stem cells and their neighboring cells occur every second, but these interactions are hard to track and not clearly understood.

As a part of the new study, Tamplin and his co-lead author, Mark Ellisman, a professor of neuroscience at UC San Diego, identified a way to integrate multiple types of microscopic imaging to investigate a cell’s niche. With the newly developed technique that uses confocal microscopy, X-ray microscopy, and serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, researchers will now be able to track the once elusive cell-cell interactions occurring in this space.

“This has allowed us to identify cell types in the microenvironment that we didn’t even know interacted with stem cells, which is opening new research directions,” Tamplin says.

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