A multi-disciplinary team from the University of Pennsylvania have published in Nature Methods a first-of-its-kind way to isolate RNA from live cells in their natural tissue microenvironment without damaging nearby cells. This allows the researchers to analyze how cell-to-cell chemical connections influence individual cell function and overall protein production.
Tissues, of course, are complex structures composed of various cell types. The identity and function of individual cells within each tissue type -- heart, skin, brain, for example -- are closely linked by which genes are transcribed into RNA, and ultimately proteins. To study gene expression in single cells in their natural tissue setting, researchers must be able to look at a cell's inner workings, much as an ecologist does when studying how an individual species interacts with its habitat.
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