The robotic system could accelerate the production and use of organ tissues that don’t have to be cut out of an actual human but are nevertheless suitable for research and drug discovery. The system is described in a study published online today in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
What happens when you cross cell biology with artificial intelligence? At the Allen Institute for Cell Science, the answer isn’t super-brainy microbes, but new computer models that can turn simple black-and-white pictures of live human cells into color-coded, 3-D visualizations filled with detail.
The online database, known as the Allen Integrated Cell, is now being made publicly available — and its creators say it could open up new windows into the workings of our cells.
“From a single, simple microscopy image, you could get this very high-contrast, integrated 3-D image where it’s very easy to see where all the separate structures are,” Molly Maleckar, director of modeling at the Seattle-based Allen Institute, told GeekWire.
The cells you see on the screen aren’t made-up animations: They’re based on an analysis of high-quality photomicrographs documenting more than 6,000 induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS cells, derived from human skin cells.
The IPS cells underwent gene editing to attach fluorescent markers to 11 different types of structures that make up the cells’ machinery – and that’s not all. The institute then applied deep-learning computational methods to predict the complete structure of each cell, based on their glowing patterns.
“This is the first time researchers have used deep learning to try and understand the elusive question of how actual cells are organized,” Rick Horwitz, the institute’s executive director, said in a news release.
Researchers in Seattle have taken advantage of two of the hottest trends in biotech – cell reprogramming and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing – to create human stem cells that glow as they turn into different tissue types.
The Allen Institute for Cell Science is making the genetically modified cells available to researchers around the world, with the aim of unlocking the secrets behind cell development.
“These are the first five cell lines in a collection of about 20 that we hope to be releasing in the next year,” Susanne Rafelski, the institute’s director of assay development, told GeekWire in advance of today’s unveiling of the Allen Cell Collection.
The institute’s executive director, Rick Horwitz, explained that each of the millions of cells in our body is like a city, with resources that move around from where they’re made to where they’re used.
“With these cell lines, we aim to give the cell science community a kind of live traffic map, to see when and where the parts of the cell are with the clarity and consistency they need to make progress toward understanding human health and tackling disease,” he said in a news release.
Unicorns are real! Scientists propose cloaking device to protect Earth from aliens! Glow-in-the-dark skin grown in lab! Those may sound like April Fool’s headlines, but they’re actually amped-up twists on real-life science. Check out five recent scientific revelations that take a walk on the weird side.