Menu

New Technique Maps RNAs in Cells Without a Microscope

DNA microscopy pinpoints the locations of transcripts by laying a grid of tags over the molecules and labeling each connection.

Jun 20, 2019
Kerry Grens

A newly developed method called DNA microscopy can accurately pinpoint the location of mRNA molecules within a cell and produce a visual map of the transcripts—all without actually using a microscope.

A culture of cells producing green fluorescent protein and red fluorescent protein. The top image is optical microscopy; the bottom is DNA microscopy.
weinstein et al / cell

The technique, published in Cell today (June 20), works by first converting selected RNAs in a cell culture to cDNAs, then labeling each molecule with a unique stretch of nucleotides. Those labels then amplify themselves, and when they expand to the point of contacting another cDNA’s labels, the connection itself gets a unique nucleotide tag. The closer any two cDNAs are, the more connection tags they’ll generate.

As Science describes it, “To count the labels, the researchers grind up the cells and analyze the DNA they contain. A computer algorithm can then infer the original positions of the DNA molecules to generate an image.”

“The first time I saw a DNA microscopy image, it blew me away,” coauthor Aviv Regev, a computational and systems biologist at the Broad Institute, tells The New York Times.

The researchers compared their computer-generated images with true microscopy images of the same cells, and found that while DNA microscopy wasn’t as crisp, the locations of the selected mRNAs were accurately plotted. “[O]ne key weakness of DNA microscopy remains the resolution of empty space,” which could distort the map when RNA molecules are far apart, Regev and her colleagues write in their study, “and future work will be needed to eliminate this obstacle to produce high-quality reconstructions of samples over large lengths where there are gaps in molecular density.”

July 2019

On Target

Researchers strive to make individualized medicine a reality

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Overcoming the Efficiency Challenge in Clinical NGS
Overcoming the Efficiency Challenge in Clinical NGS
Download this white paper to see how an ECS lab serving a network of more than 10,000 healthcare providers integrated QIAGEN Clinical Insight (QCI) Interpret to significantly reduce manual variant curation efforts and increase workflow efficiency by 80%!
Veravas Launches Product Portfolio to Mitigate Biotin Interference and Improve Diagnostic Assay Accuracy
Veravas Launches Product Portfolio to Mitigate Biotin Interference and Improve Diagnostic Assay Accuracy
Veravas, Inc., an emerging diagnostic company, launched a portfolio of products that can improve the accuracy of current diagnostic test results by helping laboratory professionals detect and manage biotin interference in patient samples with VeraTest Biotin and VeraPrep Biotin.
New Data on Circulating Tumor DNA as a Biomarker for Detecting Cancer Progression Presented at 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting
New Data on Circulating Tumor DNA as a Biomarker for Detecting Cancer Progression Presented at 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting
Scientists presented more than 30 abstracts featuring Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR) technology at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago, May 31–June 4.
BellBrook Labs Receives NIH Grant for the Discovery of cGAS Inhibitors to Treat Autoimmune Diseases
BellBrook Labs Receives NIH Grant for the Discovery of cGAS Inhibitors to Treat Autoimmune Diseases
The National Institute Of Allergy And Infectious Disease recently awarded BellBrook Labs a $300,000 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant to develop novel inhibitors for the target cyclic GAMP Synthase (cGAS). The grant will be used to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for autoimmune diseases by targeting the cGAS-STING pathway.