This month's issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols features a cutting-edge method that provides a snapshot of growth and activity patterns in mixed populations of cells. The protocol is freely accessible online.
Written by Ingrid Schmid, a scientist at UCLA, the protocol involves taking a population of cells and labeling their nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and cell-surface proteins with specific dyes. Then, using a technique called flow cytometry, scientists can determine the DNA and RNA content of the cells. This allows them to identify the cell-cycle stage of each cell, which provides insight into patterns of cell growth and activity in the population. For example, they can identify which sub-populations of cells are actively dividing and which are not.
Schmid and her colleagues have used the procedure to characterize specific sub-populations of cells in human blood that are involved in the immune response.
This month's issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols also includes the related classic technique for the quantification of DNA and RNA in solutions. This essential and routine procedure is used in virtually every laboratory.
This article is also freely available online.