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MIT Team Uses New Imaging System to see Mutated Cells

mutated cellsResearchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new system that lets them see and count cells with a particular mutation.

Working with specially bred mice, the biological engineering team found clusters of cells in pancreas tissue that all contained the same mutation.  Because more than 90 percent of the cells were clustered, the scientists concluded that they all came from  one mutation, rather than from many individual changes.

Bevin Engelward, associate professor of biological engineering and member of MIT’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences said,

Understanding where mutations come from is fundamental to understanding the origins of cancer.

Previously the researchers had developed a strain of mice whose cells glow (fluoresce) when they have undergone a particular change in DNA.

Engelward and colleague Peter So led a team that developed two-photon imaging, a new type of microscopy.  They used the new imaging to look for the fluorescent cells in the living mouse tissue.

Engelward continued,

The work was truly a team effort between many people with very different areas of expertise. The Department of Biological Engineering and the Center for Environmental Health Sciences are key in helping to bridge people across disciplines.

SOURCE: Witkor et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Early Edition, July 22, 2008.

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