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Device to Control Gene Activity Produced

Researchers at the Rockefeller University, United States have come up with a device which enables the control of gene activity during cell multiplication. According to them, the technology, enabling the comparison of gene activities from one cell to another would be important in the construction of pedigrees. It would also help in understanding the interaction of genes and proteins in driving cellular functions.

A microfluidic device, it uses electrovalves to control the media flow, which travelling through a tube, diffuses across a permeable membrane to reach the budding yeast cells. The cells are placed between the membrane and a soft material in a way that hinders their movement and are therefore forced to bud. This breakthrough, absent in the previous technologies, helps track hundreds of single cells for a longer period of time—across eight rounds of cell division, typically lasting for 12 hours.

Earlier applications to yeasts, grown under a gel pad, had limitations. The tracking of single cells was not possible after five rounds of cell division. Secondly, the variation of the growth media was not possible. In this technology, in order to induce the activities of a gene and then control it, the researchers have used inducer molecules called methionine that diffuse through the membrane and control the DNA segments.

The researchers have shown that the budding yeast cells would stop and start diving in synchronisation with the pulses of the media that did and did not contain methionine respectively.

This technology would open up possibilities that were not considered feasible earlier. It would help follow multiple fluorescent markers and construct cell pedigrees over cycles of division and growth similar to that of liquid culture, with the added ability to pulse with the inducers.

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