In a June paper in Nature Communications, a team led by Ludwig Oxford’s Colin Goding and Francesco Neri of Friedrich-Schiller-University in Germany reported their development of a general method for identifying dormant stem cells that is applicable to all cell types, including cancerous ones. The researchers exploited the fact that dormant stem cells have low activity of CDK9, an enzyme that promotes gene expression. They designed a genetically encoded assay for CDK9 activity called Optical Stem Cell Activity Reporter (OSCAR) that is highly fluorescent in dormant stem cells, but not in cells with active CDK9. They showed that the assay could reveal dormant stem cells in time-lapse microscopy of intestinal organoid cultures and in an OSCAR mouse model by fluorescent light-activated cell sorting. The team anticipates that OSCAR may prove to be a useful tool in characterizing dormant cells in both cultured cells and living tissues, including cancers.
This article appeared in the February 2022 issue of Ludwig Link. Click here to download a PDF (1 MB).