Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 12:13PM
Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are now advancing the field of stem-cell research using computer vision technology. The system, which predicts what will happen to stem cells after they divide, could lead to more effective methods of growing stem cells on a large-scale basis for therapeutic use.
When stem cells divide, they either continue to produce additional stem cells, or they become part of a future developing organ. Badri Roysam, professor of electrical, computer and systems engineering at Rensselaer and one of the scientists involved in the project, said achieving large-scale production of stem cells has always been very difficult.
In order to develop effective stem cell therapies, researchers need large numbers of specific cells, which is difficult because they historically haven’t known in advance which way the cells would go after they divide. But now, researchers may be able to influence the division process in order to produce large numbers of the correct type of cells.
From U.S. News & World Report:
The new computer vision system takes images of cells every five minutes, and uses a process called algorithmic information theoretic prediction to watch the behavior of the cells, analyze the behavior and decide whether each individual cell will split into self-replicating or terminal daughter cells. The process happens in real time; thus, the researchers know what will happen to the cells before they actually divide.
The method, could “be beneficial for one day taking cells from a patient, and then growing large amounts of the kind of cells that patient is in need of,” Roysam said. “This could enable many new and exciting types of medical treatments using stem cells.”
Roysam said the new computer vision system could have a profound impact on the field of cell biology.
“Cells are giving out hints of what they are about to do, and we cannot decode these hints when we are viewing them just by eye,” he said. “Now you have a computational eye that can see subtle things the human eye cannot see. As a computer scientist, I am hugely excited about the future role of computers. Computational sensing is going to become very big in the future of biology.”