I think it’s fair to say that most people act at least somewhat differently in public than they do in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. I don’t walk around in my pajamas at the grocery store or spend much time fussing over my hair when I don’t plan to leave the house, for example. Now it appears that adult stem cells exercise similar location-specific judgment calls, and that these differences may call into question the results of previous studies of these cells.
One key way to understand how any cell functions is to eavesdrop on its internal monologue. What genes does it express and when? What proteins does it make? To intercept these messages, researchers usually isolate the cells for study in a laboratory dish. But now, Stanford neurologist and stem cell expert Thomas Rando, MD, PhD, together with postdoctoral scholar Cindy van Velthoven, PhD, have found that the very process of isolating the cells (using a process called fluorescence-activated cell sorting, or FACS) significantly changes their gene expression patterns.
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