Gene chips, or microarrays, have proven to be immensely important in measuring the activity of thousands of genes at once in such cells as cancer cells or immune cells. The use of these chips has given scientists snapshots of gene activity that lead to better understanding of the genetic machinery of the cells. This understanding has led to new ways to kill cancers or to manipulate the immune system, for example.
Gene chips consist of vast arrays of thousands of specific genetic segments spotted onto tiny chips. When gene extracts of cells are applied to the chips, labeled with fluorescent indicators, genes from the cell extracts attach to their complementary counterparts on the chips. Measurements of the fluorescence of each spot give scientists an indication of the activity of particular genes.
As vital as they are to studies of individual types of cells, gene chips have proven to be less useful in efforts to understand the genetic signatures of specific brain cells, because a myriad of subtly different subtypes of brain cells are intertwined in brain tissue.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
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