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Computational biology: Cells reprogrammed on the computer
Date:7/31/2013

0. Biologists add refined cocktails of molecules, i.e. growth factors, to the cell cultures in a certain order. This allows them to control the genetic activity in the conversion process. However, this method so far has been largely guided by educated trial and error.

Variable jumping between different cell lines is possible

Now, the LCSB researchers have replaced trial and error with computer calculations, as computer scientist and PhD student at LCSB Isaac Crespo explains: "Our theoretical model first queries databases where vast amounts of information on gene actions and their effects are stored and then identifies the genes that maintain the stability of differentiated cells. Working from the appropriate records, the model suggests which genes in the starting cells need to be switched on and off again, and when, in order to change them into a different cell type."

"Our predictions have proved very accurate in the lab," says Professor del Sol: "And it turns out it makes no difference at all how similar the cells are. The models work equally well for cell lines that have only just branched off from one another as for those that are already very far apart." Prof. del Sol's and Crespo's model thus allows highly variable jumping between very different cell types without taking a detour via stem cells.

The biologists and medical scientists still have their lab work cut out for them: They have to identify all the growth factors that initiate the respective genetic activities in the correct, predicted order.


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Contact: Britta Schlüter
britta.schlueter@uni.lu
352-466-644-6563
University of Luxembourg
Source:Eurekalert

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