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Inferred large-scale DNA microscopy image

Individual RNA molecules (coloured dots) in a cell culture. An algorithm picked out the molecules by analysing the products of a chemical reaction and identifying their relative position. Credit: Joshua Weinstein/Broad Institute

Molecular biology

‘Microscope’ made of DNA reveals a cell’s hidden structures

DNA tags can be used to assemble a diagram of the genetic material inside a cell.

An imaging technique that uses chemical reactions instead of light can reveal the spatial organization and sequences of DNA molecules inside cells.

Joshua Weinstein at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues generated small DNA tags known as unique molecular identifiers (UMIs) and inserted them into cells, where the tags bound to complementary DNA or RNA sequences. The researchers then carried out a process that makes numerous copies of these tagged sequences.

The resulting DNA fragments diffuse between cells and interact with other UMIs, forming DNA or RNA complexes that the researchers can then sequence. The resulting data is fed into a computer algorithm, which uses this information to piece together UMI positions in the cells.

The process allows the researchers to see the arrangement of DNA and RNA in cells, which they say could be helpful in identifying cell types and understanding how cells interact with one another.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum


The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
Illustration of Earth with white lines showing the magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field (depicted as white lines in this artist’s impression) can be studied with observations from a constellation of commercial satellites. Credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Science Photo Library


Telecoms satellites’ new purpose: spying on Earth’s magnetic field

Clues to the forces generated by the planet’s core emerge from observations intended for satellite navigation.
Ageing of an artwork with graphene

After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageless

A layer of carbon atoms preserves a painting’s vibrant hues — and can be applied and removed without damage.
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