Discussion of all aspects of cellular structure, physiology and communication.
6 posts • Page 1 of 1
it depends. if it is a pancreatic beta cell you would definitely know where it came from. But if it is a muscle cell, i guess not. I don't see how...
"As a biologist, I firmly believe that when you're dead, you're dead. Except for what you live behind in history. That's the only afterlife" - J. Craig Venter
If you mean the specific location where the cell is coming from, that can be, like MrMistery said, very tricky. However, the following methods can help in cases where the cells only exist in specific location, or if you need to know what type of the cell it is, not where it exactly cam from.
One can get pretty accurate information regarding the origins of a given cell by e.g. monoclonal antibodies linked with fluorescent dyes. The antibodies can be made to target sell surface structures (receptors) that are unique to the given cell group. By permeabilising the cells, also intracellular markers can be reached. However, if we have absolutely no clue about the cell's origin, then we'd have to scale down our options by first using some generic markers to narrow down the possibilities, and then use very specific ones. This method ideally requires that there are many cells to measure in a suspended for, so as to allow flow cytometric analyses.
In case of solid tissues, or if there are very few cells to study, one could try to couple the fluorescent dyes with confocal laser scanning microscopy, that allows us to see the positive signal by microscope. This also relies on monoclonal antibodies and cell-specific marker molecules. Both these methdos could work, if we manage to e.g. reveal that the cell is an immature T-cell, which then would quite likely be from the thymus. Many cells probably have very unique sets of receptors and other molecules in a given location, and thus vary even between the same cell type.
This way you can identify many cells that are unique to a certain part of the body, and simple light microscope analysis can allow an experienced researcher to get rough idea about where some general cell has come from - e.g. the heart muscle cells look different from striated muscle cells etc. Also you could measure the cell's metabolites and other molecules that it produces, such as cytokines or enzymes. Again, this could reveal you many organ-specific cells like liver cells, glandular cells (by the hormones it produces) and so forth.
Finally, if you want to do things REALLY difficultly, you can always conduct a genomic analysis on your cell(s) and see what genes are upregulated and what shut down - and then compare your results to the cells all over the body! For this, you must really badly want to know the cell's origin, and a thick wallet is a must
So, in short: it all depends
my point stands: for some cells it is impossible
This question actually has me thinking: is there anyway to make a difference between a muscle cell in your finger and in your toe for example?
Yep, for many cells it is probably impossible, or at least next-to it. Widespread cells/tissues, such as muscle, are no doubt among these. You could probably tell something about the origins of a skeletal muscle cell if you e.g. take a look at its cellular organelles - muscle cells in different parts of the body vary among one another depending on the type of work they are used to do. The amount of mitochondria or nuclei are examples of this - muscles working for long time without tiring (such as muscles that support your posture) have many mitochondria (iirc) and lots of certain enzymes. Also the amount of myoglobin is different between muscles. Whether this comparison works in practise, I have no idea. The differences could be too subtle, or the they could be so general, that you cannot, say, tell your finger from your toes =)
in Romania we have an expression. we say about someone with a very hard-to-read handwriting that he writes with his feet. Guess from a biology point of view there's not much of a difference
6 posts • Page 1 of 1
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