Using DNA microscopy, scientists can identify different cells (colored dots) within a sample – with no prior knowledge of what the sample looks like. Credit: J. Weinstein et al./Cell 2019

“DNA Microscopy”-a new way to image cells

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A new technology called as “DNA Microscopy” developed by Joshua Weinstein and colleagues at Howard Hughes Medical Institute can visualize and image cells at genomic level without use of optics.

So far, all versions of microscopy use either optics, X ray or electrons to visualize inside of the cells. But these technologies cannot tell what happens at genomic level.

This new invention dubbed as ” DNA Microscopy”, instead of using light or optics, uses DNA “bar codes” to help detect molecules’ relative position within a sample.

With DNA Microscopy, scientists can generate a visual image of molecules within a cell and generate enormous amount of genomic information.

Weinstein says. “This gives us another layer of biology that we haven’t been able to see.”

“It’s an entirely new category of microscopy,” Regev says. “It’s not just a new technique, it’s a way of doing things that we haven’t ever considered doing before.

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How does DNA Microscopy works

Capturing such a complete picture of a cell doesn’t require an expensive microscope or a lot of fancy equipment, Regev says. All you need to get started is a specimen and a pipette.

First, cells are grown and adhered to a surface in a reaction chamber. Then a mixture of DNA barcodes are added to the reaction chamber. These DNA barcodes attach themselves to the RNA inside the cells, giving each RNA a unique tag. Next, a chemical reaction is performed to multiply these tag molecules. These molecules multiply and grow outwards from their location.

Eventually, the tagged molecules collide with other tagged molecules, forcing them to link together in pairs. Molecules located close to one another will be more likely to collide, generating more DNA pairs. Molecules further apart will generate fewer pairs.

Then, by using Next Generation Sequencing, these molecules are decoded and a new computer algorithm written by scientists converts this sequencing data to visual images.

In this visualization of data provided by DNA microscopy, resolution is comparable to optical imaging. Credit: J. Weinstein et al./Cell2019

The team behind this invention believes that DNA Microscopy can one day provide useful insight into development of immunotherapy treatments to help fight cancer. A comprehensive visualization of genetic different immune factors may provide a way to identify correct cause to target immunotherapy.

It is to be believed that people may find new imaginative ways to study cells and help mankind.

Source : Joshua A. Weinstein et al. “DNA microscopy: Optics-free spatio-genetic imaging by a stand-alone chemical reaction.” Cell. Published online June 20, 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.019

Adapted from: Howard Hudges Medical Institute

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