There are many more cell types than you might think. In your liver, for example, the cells in one section may be different than those in another. But researchers have only a general idea of how stem cells differentiate into broad categories (like “liver”) and divide to make new cells. Understanding each different cell type– and how it interacts with its neighbors over time – is one of the greatest challenges in biomedical research.
A new study led by HSCI researcher Vijay Sankaran of Boston Children’s Hospital and Aviv Regev of the Broad Institute has risen to the challenge. Published in Cell, the new method allows scientists to trace the steps of a cell’s developmental history and create accurate “cell family trees”. By pinning down a cell’s specific origin, it is now possible to gain a clear view on some very complex biology.
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