A genetic tool can help biologists to pinpoint rare, replicating cells in tissue samples from adult mice.

Finding and studying dividing cells is important in learning about growth, healing and other key processes, but researchers have been hindered by the difficulty of isolating these cells alive. To overcome this problem, Amir Eden at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his colleagues created a mouse strain in which the gene for a fluorescent protein was fused to a gene that is active when cells divide. After dissecting livers from these mice, the researchers could sort dividing from non-dividing cells and compare their gene expression. Genes for liver specialization, or differentiation, were less active in replicating cells.

This fluorescent marker could help scientists to isolate and study dividing cells in multiple tissues and biological assays.

Dev. Cell http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2012.08.009 (2012)