Every animal grows from a single fertilized egg into an intricate network of cell types and organ systems. This process is captured in a lineage tree: a diagram of every cell’s ancestry back to the founding zygote. Biologists have long sought to trace this cell lineage tree in individual organisms and have developed a variety of technologies to map the progeny of specific cells. However, there are billions to trillions of cells in complex organisms, and conventional approaches can only map a limited number of clonal populations per experiment. A new generation of tools that use molecular recording methods integrated with single cell profiling technologies may provide a solution. Here, we summarize recent breakthroughs in these technologies, outline experimental and computational challenges, and discuss biological questions that can be addressed using single cell dynamic lineage tracing.
Recording development with single cell dynamic lineage tracing