UCSF Researchers Control Embryonic Stem Cells With Light

Human embryonic stem cells

Human embryonic stem cells

Reddit can be a very powerful tool if used properly. The site has a recurrent series called AMA (“ask me anything”). World leaders, artists, and prominent figures have been featured here. For our purposes, which are Biology related, I’ll share with you a recent Science AMA. Matt Thompson, a scientist from San Francisco California, wanted to understand how STEM cells specialize—with the hopes of one day directing their fates via lasers. Scientists are using lasers, 3D printing technologies, and stem cells to usher in a future that was only possible in the world of science fiction.

Imagine a day when researchers can illuminate a bath of undifferentiated stem cells with a pattern of different colors of light and come back the next day to find a complex pattern of blood and nerve and liver tissue forming an organ.

From Matt Thompson’s Lab:

Matt’s graduate research at Harvard University focused on understanding cell fate decisions in response to developmental signals. Currently, he is exploring cellular decisions that occur in cell populations, for example, within tissues of a developing organism or within our immune system. How do large numbers of progenitor cells within a developing organism exchange information and coordinate their state to construct a complex tissue? What are the rules that organize multi-cellular phenomena and how are these rules implemented in molecular circuits that operate in single cells? He is using a combination of approaches including mathematical models, statistical analysis of high-throughput gene expression data, and single cell RNA sequencing experiments. His current work is reconstituting a set of developmental processes in the lab using mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation and developing imaging methods for tracking and perturbing the activity of signaling pathways and transcriptional regulators in many single cells at once. Matt will use this data with computational models to classify mechanisms used by tissues to develop and repair themselves without centralized control.–Via