Rensselaer Research Review Winter 2009-10
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Predicting the Fate of Stem Cells
Using advanced computer vision technology to detect subtle cell movements that are impossible to discern with the human eye. The above image shows rat retinal progenitor cell (dark outline), and its movement over about 27 hours. Credit: Rensselaer/Roysam and Cohen
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Predicting With 99 Percent Accuracy

Roysam and Cohen tracked the development of rat retinal progenitor cells cultured in their collaborator’s laboratory at McGill University. The computer system they developed took images of the cells every five minutes, and employed algorithmic information theoretic prediction (AITP) to observe the behavior of the cells, analyze the behavior, and discern whether each individual cell is fated to split into self-replicating or terminal daughter cells. This process occurs in real time, so researchers know the fate of cells before they actually divide.

The researchers predicted with 99 percent accuracy if the rat retinal progenitor cells would split into self-renewing or specialized cells, and predicted with 87 percent accuracy certain characteristics of the specialized cells.

“Our results suggest that stem cells display subtle dynamic patterns that can be sensed computationally to predict the outcome of their next division using AITP,” Roysam said. “In theory, AITP can be used to analyze nearly any type of cell, and could lead to advances in many different fields.”

Roysam said prototyping and development of the system leveraged the processing power of Rensselaer’s supercomputer, the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI).

Co-authors of the paper are Michel Cayouette and Francisco Gomes of the Cellular Neurobiology Research Unit at the Institut de Recherces Cliniques de Monteal; and Roysam’s former student Cohen, now an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

This project was supported in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation Center for Subsurface Sensing and Imaging Systems, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness-Canada.

For more information, visit Roysam’s Web site at: http://www.ecse.rpi.edu/~roysam.

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