Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to mimic the effects of developmental genes, creating models of embryonic stages
At the earliest stage of our lives, genes switch on and off inside stem cells, guiding them towards different destinies in future tissues and organs. Here a technique called CRISPR interference blocks specific genes inside groups of human pluripotent stem cells, mimicking some of the early decisions made inside embryos. A high-powered microscope watches how artificially-coloured cell clumps develop differently over one, three and five days (across each row). The red-coloured cells have a switched-off ROCK1 gene (middle) and move towards the edge, while blocking CDH1 (bottom, blue) directs cells into little islands, compared to the white cells with normal genes (top). This technique may be used to study the effects of other developmental genes, creating realistic models for delicate embryonic stages. These may reveal insights into miscarriage or perhaps developmental disorders, as well as morphogenesis – the unseen patterns that shape early life.
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