Microscopic Bar Codes Identify Living Cells

Fluorescent bar codesThought bar codes were just for commerce? Think again.

Research biologists at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed microscopic bar codes they hope will help advance medical research.

Made up of a series of colored dots that glow under ultraviolet light, the bar codes may help biologists attach ID tags to individual cells. The colored dots are fluorescent proteins, originally discovered in a type of glowing jellyfish.

By using these bar codes to tag more and more cells, researchers can keep track of  individual cancer cells and find out exactly how they change over time. The fluorescent proteins help distinguish the individual cells when viewed under a microscope.

You can find out more about the research results in the September issue of the journal Nature Chemistry.

(Photo credit:  Chenxiang Lin et al, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School)