Nanoparticle vesicle encoding for imaging and tracking cell populations

Paul Rees, John W. Wills, M. Rowan Brown, James Tonkin, Mark D. Holton, Nicole Hondow, Andrew P. Brown, Rik Brydson, Val Millar, Anne E. Carpenter, Huw D. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


For phenotypic behavior to be understood in the context of cell lineage and local environment, properties of individual cells must be measured relative to population-wide traits. However, the inability to accurately identify, track and measure thousands of single cells via high-throughput microscopy has impeded dynamic studies of cell populations. We demonstrate unique labeling of cells, driven by the heterogeneous random uptake of fluorescent nanoparticles of different emission colors. By sequentially exposing a cell population to different particles, we generated a large number of unique digital codes, which corresponded to the cell-specific number of nanoparticle-loaded vesicles and were visible within a given fluorescence channel. When three colors are used, the assay can self-generate over 17,000 individual codes identifiable using a typical fluorescence microscope. The color-codes provided immediate visualization of cell identity and allowed us to track human cells with a success rate of 78% across image frames separated by 8 h.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1177-1181
Number of pages5
JournalNature Methods
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 30 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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