A device that enables efficient pairing and fusion of cells and allows easy observation of the process is presented in a study online in Nature Methods this week. The authors use the device to reprogram mouse fibroblasts by fusion to embryonic stem cells.
A differentiated cell, such as a fibroblast, carries many modifications or marks on its DNA that determine which genes are expressed and consequently establishes the cell type. One way to erase these marks, in a process called reprogramming, is to fuse a differentiated cell with an embryonic stem cell. We understand little about this process of reprogramming and methods that allow high-throughput fusion of cells belonging to defined populations are needed. One challenge is to physically pair and fuse two cells efficiently while allowing observation of the process.
Joel Voldman and Rudolf Jaenisch designed a microfluidic device that increases pairing efficiency. Cells that are to be paired are consecutively trapped in mini capture cups that only have space for two cells, thus increasing the probability that the two cell types one wants to fuse will be trapped together. After pairing, membrane fusion is initiated and the whole fusion process can easily be observed microscopically.
While the study of reprogramming is a particularly interesting application for this device, it may also be useful for other techniques that rely on cell fusion, such as the production of monoclonal antibodies.
Joel Voldman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Rudolf Jaenisch (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.(C)Nature Methods press release.
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