A software program created by an engineer at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee (UWM) can not only predict the types of specialized cells a stem cell will produce, but also foresee the outcome before the stem cell even divides.
The software, developed by Andrew Cohen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, analyzes time-lapse images capturing live stem cell behaviors. It will allow scientists to search for mechanisms that control stem cell specialization, the main obstacle in advancing the use of stem cell therapy for treatment of disease. It could also lead to new research into causes of cancer, which involves cells that continuously self-renew.
Stem cells play a key role in human development, and also offer the potential to repair tissues or organs damaged by disease or injury. But, in order to use stem cell-based therapies, biologists need to better understand the mechanisms that control stem cell differentiation.
"This is a brand-new set of tools for developmental biologists," says Cohen, "and it supports an area where no other predictive solutions exist."
The research is published Feb. 7 in the journal Nature Methods. Co-authors are Michel Cayouette and Francisco Gomez neurobiologists at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal, and Badri Roysam, a computer engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The software is 87 percent accurate in determining the specific "offspring" a stem cell will ultimately produce, and 99 percent accurate in predicting when self-renewal of these stem cells will end in specialization.
A hunt for markers
As an example of the software's utility, Cohen cites using stem cells to treat the eye disease macular degeneration. The stem cells would need to produce more photoreceptor neurons for treatment to succeed. "But if you simply implant the stem cells into the retina, there are other types of cells that could develop," h
|Contact: Andrew Cohen|
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee