What Are Stem Cell Markers?
Each cell in your body is covered in proteins known as receptors. These receptors help the cell to survive by allowing various molecule sot bind to them and work out necessary interactions that provide the cell with energy. The numbers and kinds of receptors make a long list. Each type of cell has receptors or sets of receptors that are particular to it. For instance, the cells that make up your kidney have some receptors that are specific to them and are not found on liver cells or skin cells.
Stem cells have their own distinct receptors on their exterior surfaces. This distinction allows scientists to easily identify and tag such cells. Were it not for the existence of these markers, scientists would not have made so many recent advancements in their study of stem cells. Each marker has a name based on the molecules to which it binds.
How Do Scientists Identify Stem Cell Markers?
There are many different ways to use stem cell markers in scientific study. Two approaches are outlined here. One involves the use of a technique known as fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and the other method uses the fluorescent tags on these markers to identify and assess the condition of stem cells present in tissues.
• Scientists frequently use FACS to distinguish stem cells from the millions of cells present in any view of tissues or organs. The process begins with a nozzle that is so narrow that it will only allow the exit of one cell at a time. As the cells exit the nozzle, they pass through a beam of light. Stem cells, which have been previously treated with fluorescent markers, become negatively charged as they pass through the light. Other cells take on a positive charge.
• When scientists wish to see how stem cells act in tissues under a microscope and cannot use the FACS device, they remove a thin slice of the desired tissue. Stem cell markers are tagged with an injection of signaling molecules with fluorescent tags. Observers activate these tags with light or chemical energy. The fluorescent light emitted by stem cell markers is visible in the microscope.
Scientists have also begun to study the possibility of identifying and studying stem cells without having to rely on the identification of their markers. However, this method had been useful for a considerable period, given the short amount of time in which stem cells have been identifiable. Stem cell markers will certainly remain an important method of identification in research.