Glitter lights up pathway of ESC-derived blood cells

Working with embryonic stem cells, Australian scientists have created ‘glow-in-the-dark' blood cells that could help light the way to an artificial blood supply that would do away with the need for regular donations.

Adding "glitter" to the blood cells-y adding jellyfish genes to the mix--allowed scientists at the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories in Melbourne to watch the fluorescent cells for three weeks until they died. That approach gives researchers a chance to more closely study the behavior of the ESC-derived blood cells after they are injected into an animal, speeding the preclinical phase of development.

''It means if we're doing tests where we're injecting the cells in laboratory mice seeing how they develop or how they work in the environment we can unambiguously distinguish the cells that we've put in from the mouse's own blood cells,'' said Professor Andrew Elefanty. ''You can just take a small sample of blood from the animal and there's a special machine that can detect the glowing cells. 'It takes a lot of the guesswork out of those sorts of experiments.''

"The elegant work of the Elefanty-Stanley group unlocks the entrance to the long sought and elusive differentiation pathway that leads to expression of adult haemoglobin genes," said Professor Joe Sambrook, the scientific director of the Australian Stem Cell Centre.

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