New Tool Provides Researchers with Improved Understanding of Stem Cell Aging in the Brain

Dr. Darcie Moore

Researchers are one step closer to understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying stem cell aging in the brain thanks to a new tool developed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Dr. Darcie Moore, an associate professor of the Department of Neuroscience, along with the collaboration of Dr. Melissa Skala, Department of Biomedical Engineering professor and Morgridge Institute for Research investigator, have developed a tool that combines autofluorescence and single-cell RNA sequencing to study neural stem cell behavior. Both are active members of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.

Autofluorescence is often considered a negative feature of cells as it obscures the fluorescent labels researchers use to track specific signals within a cell. In this case, however, researchers have determined that autofluorescence signatures can be used to better study the substates of neural stem cells including the key stage of quiescence, also known as the stem cell’s dormant state.

“The quiescent state is very important because the exit from quiescence is the rate-limiting step in making newborn neurons in the adult brain,” Moore, the senior author on the study, says. “Aging and neurological diseases limit this exit from quiescence, so we have a great need to study adult neural stem cells in their different cell states.”

By identifying and decoding these autofluorescence signatures, Moore and Skala have developed a tool that will not only aid in the study of adult neurological diseases and aging, but potentially expand beyond neuroscience.

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This research was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (P30 CA014520, 1S10RR025483-01, T32GM008688 and 1DP2OD025783) as well as the Vallee Foundation, Morgridge Institute for Research and Retina Research Foundation.