Wile et al., Nat Protoc, 2014
Molecular beacons (MBs) are dual-labeled oligonucleotides that fluoresce only in the presence of complementary mRNA. The use of MBs to target specific mRNAs allows sorting of specific cells from a mixed cell population. In contrast to existing approaches that are limited by available surface markers or selectable metabolic characteristics, the MB-based method enables the isolation of a wide variety of cells. For example, the ability to purify specific cell types derived from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) is important for basic research and therapeutics. In addition to providing a general protocol for MB design, validation and nucleofection into cells, we describe how to isolate a specific cell population from differentiating PSCs. By using this protocol, we have successfully isolated cardiomyocytes differentiated from mouse or human PSCs (hPSCs) with ∼ 97% purity, as confirmed by electrophysiology and immunocytochemistry. After designing MBs, their ordering and validation requires 2 weeks, and the isolation process requires 3 h.