The screening of thousands of fluorescent molecules has revealed a specific label for neural stem cells

October 24, 2012
In a high-throughput screening of fluorescent molecules, the fluorescent compound CDr3 stained neural stem cells the most brightly and specifically. Credit: 2012 National Academy of Sciences, USA  (inset, pink); © 2012 A*STAR Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (main image)

Neural stem cells are the precursors of cells in the nervous system. As well as being crucial for early development, they are present throughout life, contributing to flexibility and repair of the nervous system. As such, they can be used to study the brain, and may offer new ways of treating neurological disease.

Current techniques for identifying and labeling live neural stem cells use to detect specific cell-surface . Small fluorescent molecules, which are commonly used to visualize the locations and movements of molecules and cells, may offer a more convenient and safer alternative.

Young-Tae Chang at the A*STAR Singapore Bioimaging Consortium and co-workers have now identified a fluorescent compound that specifically labels neural stem cells by binding to an intracellular protein. The molecule, named CDr3, was singled out for its selective labeling of neural stem cells after testing thousands of fluorescent compounds from a 'Diversity Oriented Fluorescence Library', or DOFL.

"A DOFL is a collection of intrinsically fluorescent low compounds which have been synthesized, purified and characterized in our lab," says co-author Seong-Wook Yun. "We have generated more than 10,000 DOFL so far, each with different chemical and biological properties."

The researchers narrowed down the number of potentially useful molecules by assessing how strongly they labeled stem cells, and finally determined that CDr3 stained them the most selectively and brightly (see image). They confirmed the specificity of labeling by incubating CDr3 with different cell types and showing that it only stained neural stem cells. Growing stem cells in the presence of CDr3 also showed that it does not affect their survival or division.

A combination of molecular biology techniques revealed that CDr3 labeled the cells by binding to a neural stem cell-specific protein called FABP7. This is found inside the cell, unlike other labeling targets. "Conventionally, live neural stem cells have been identified by detecting cell surface molecules," explains Yun. "However, these molecules are also highly expressed in other types of cells. FABP7 is a specific intracellular marker of neural stem cells."

Labeling of neural stem cells with CDr3 not only allowed them to be identified, but also to be separated from other types of cells. According to Yun, this is important for practical applications.

"Detection and isolation of live from heterogeneous cell populations is a key technology, not only for basic research but also for the development of cell-based therapeutics and drug development," he says.

Explore further: Under the Microscope #12 - Brain cells from skin cells

More information: Yun, S.-W., Leong, C., Duanting, Z., Tan, Y. L., Lim, L. et al. Neural stem cell specific fluorescent chemical probe binding to FABP7. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, 10214–10217 (2012). www.pnas.org/content/109/26/10214

Related Stories

Under the Microscope #12 - Brain cells from skin cells

February 29, 2012
This is a beautiful image of human brain cells, which can now be grown from adult skin cells.

Recommended for you

Long-lasting blood vessel repair in animals via stem cells

October 23, 2017
Stem cell researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have made an advance toward having a long-lasting "repair caulk" for blood vessels. The research could form the basis of a treatment for peripheral artery disease, ...

Synthetic hydrogels deliver cells to repair intestinal injuries

October 23, 2017
By combining engineered polymeric materials known as hydrogels with complex intestinal tissue known as organoids - made from human pluripotent stem cells - researchers have taken an important step toward creating a new technology ...

Study reveals connection between microbiome and autoimmune disorders

October 23, 2017
Many people associate the word "bacteria" with something dirty and disgusting. Dr. Pere Santamaria disagrees. Called the microbiome, the bacteria in our bodies have all kinds of positive effects on our health, Santamaria ...

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.