“How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

by Michael Mullaney on February 11, 2010

Professor Badri Roysam and colleagues have a new paper out in Nature Methods, which you can find here. The research team has developed a new computer-based system that can predict – with up to 99 percent accuracy – the fate of certain cells after they split. The system includes a video camera that tracks the movement of cells over time, as they dance around the Petri dish. The algorithms that Roysam and others created can sense very subtle patterns in the movements of these cells, patterns which are impossible to notice with the human eye. By “reading” the patterns, the computer program can predict with extremely high certainty if a cell will split, and, if so, the traits of the daughter cells.

The image above tracks the movement of a rat retinal progenitor cell for over a full day. You can see the cell in its starting position in the lower right. The video camera took snapshots of the cell every 30 minutes throughout the course of nearly 27 hours. Each colored circle shows the location of the cell at that specific point in time – the color of the circle corresponds with the colored timeline at the bottom of the image. The cell is certainly dancing to its own tune.

Look for a full news release next week.