In a new study published this week in Science, researchers from the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University analyzed RNA sequence data from 16 time points in human stem cells as they developed into cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells. In the process, they identified hundreds of expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), sections of DNA that are associated with differences in gene expression between individuals.
These differences in how genes are expressed may have functional significance and perhaps even explain varying risk for diseases. Since many of these differences in expression occur at intermediate points during development, however, scientists can't see them by studying only mature, fully-developed tissues.
Associations - Stars - Yoav - Gilad - PhD
"Those associations are like shooting stars," said Yoav Gilad, PhD, Chief of Genetic Medicine at UChicago and senior author of the study. "They appear at one point and never again during development, and they might actually be important to the phenotype of the mature tissue and maybe even disease. But unless you study those particular cell types at that particular time, you'll never see them."
The project was a collaboration between Gilad's lab at UChicago and the lab of Alexis Battle, PhD, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. They started with pluripotent stem cells, a type of artificial stem cells that can be coaxed into growing into many different cell types. For this study, the cells were differentiated into cardiomyocytes, the primary contracting muscle cells in the heart.
Researchers - RNA - Cells - Day - Days
The researchers sampled RNA from the cells once a day over 16 days as they developed into cardiomyocytes. This allowed them to measure gene expression every single day in cell types that were not truly the beginning stem cells and not truly mature heart cells either. Instead of getting one snapshot of genetic activity by sampling adult tissues, they were able to see...
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