New CellNet Quality Control Tool Ensures Lab-created Cells Have the Right Properties

  • 14 August, 2014

Senior Investigator George Daley to Speak with ISSCR Members via Live Webcast, September 17, 2014

Scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Boston University have created a computer algorithm called CellNet as a “roadmap” for cell and tissue engineering, to ensure that cells engineered in the lab have the same favorable properties as cells in our own bodies. CellNet and its application to stem cell engineering are described in two back-to-back papers in the August 14 issue of the journal Cell.

The two papers help clarify uncertainty around which methods are best for stem cell engineering, and should advance the use of cells derived from patient tissues to model disease, test potential drugs and use as treatments.

“To date, there has been no systematic means of assessing the fidelity of cellular engineering—to determine how closely cells made in a petri dish approximate natural tissues in the body,” says George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Boston Children’s and senior investigator on both studies. “CellNet was developed to assess the quality of engineered cells and to identify ways to improve their performance.”

The researchers—including co-first authors Patrick Cahan, PhD and Samantha Morris, PhD, of Boston Children’s, and Hu Li, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, first used CellNet to assess the quality of eight kinds of cells created in 56 published studies.

In a second study, they applied CellNet’s teachings to a recurring question in stem cell biology: Is it feasible to directly convert one specialized cell type to another, bypassing the laborious process of first creating an iPS cell? This study looked at two kinds of directly converted cells: liver cells made from skin cells, and macrophages made from B cells.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) will host a webcast with Daley on September 17, 2014 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. EDT. Daley will discuss CellNet and its potential and will field questions from participants. The event will be available via the ISSCR Connect member channel, and members may visit to create their free accounts.

14 August, 2014