‘Subway’ map tracks journey of engineered stem cells

The differentiation of engineered stem cells may be imagined as a subway journey, where the genetic equivalents of missing a transfer or getting off at the wrong stop can take your stem cells far off course. In other words, your stem cells, when they finally detrain, may lack the characteristics you had in mind for them. But what if you had a map?

Such a map has, in fact, been created by scientists from Boston Children’s Hospital, the Wyss Institute, and Boston University. The map, called CellNet, is a computer algorithm, a network biology tool, that compares the gene regulatory networks (GRNs) of engineered cells with those of real-life counterpart cells in the body. With CellNet, researchers may assess:

  • the quality of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) made by reprogramming blood cells or skin cells;
  • the quality of specialized cells—such as liver, heart, muscle, brain or blood cells—made from either iPS cells or embryonic stem cells;
  • the quality of specialized cells made from other specialized cells (such as liver cells made directly from skin cells);
  • what specific improvements need to be made to the engineering process.

Read the full, original story: Mapping cell fate conversion via cellNet, a network biology tool

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