An understanding of the regulatory network underlying the development of human embryonic stem cells could one day allow scientists to manipulate these cells for therapeutic purposes, according to Professor David Gifford of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Gifford was speaking at "Systems Biology of the Stem Cell," the 2006 symposium for Computational and Systems Biology at MIT (CSBi) on Jan. 12.
Embryonic stem cells can either replicate themselves or differentiate into some 200 specific types of cells. Little is known, however, about how these processes are regulated. At the symposium Gifford described an initial map of the regulatory network he and colleagues created using powerful new machine-learning methods. Machine learning is the ability of a computer algorithm to improve with experience.
Gifford joined eight other stem cell experts from around the country at the daylong event. Additional topics included stem cells of the skin and their lineages, and cell fate determination in developing tissues.
Professor Paul Matsudaira is director of CSBi; Professor Bruce Tidor is co-director. Matsudaira has appointments in the MIT Department of Biology and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research; Tidor is affiliated with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Biological Engineering Division.