Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Test the Rainbow

Cells with distinct pathways of signals identified by 'barcodes' derived from molecular activity

06 July 2022

Test the Rainbow

Here, we see dozens of human skin cancer cells with their nuclei stained red. Each cell has been genetically engineered to make one of four fluorescent proteins – blue, cyan, green, or yellow – restricted to one of three areas. This combination of colour and space gives each cell one of 12 different 'barcodes', which researchers can use to tell them apart. Being able to recognise and test different types of living cells allows biologists to answer lots of interesting questions. Calling it the Signalome, the scientists have used their technique to study 12 different cancer signalling pathways at the same time. Their results show that hundreds of different cancer drugs ultimately upset the balance between cell growth and division. This insight could inform how we design new cancer treatments. The team plan to expand the Signalome to include hundreds of barcodes to help better understand complex cell behaviours.

Written by Henry Stennett

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