By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Feb. 7, 2010
A software program developed by a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researcher successfully has predicted the fate of stem cells, a key step toward better understanding the developmental process and perhaps one day controlling it.
The program, developed by UWM's Andrew R. Cohen and described in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Methods, uses sophisticated mathematical techniques to study the movements of stem cells and translate those observations into reliable predictions about the kinds of cells they will eventually become.
Stem cells travel a path from less specific to more specific, from the limitless possibilities of an embryonic stem cell to the finished product - a piece of heart, brain, bone or skin. By studying the subtle behaviors that lead a cell to move toward one of these end points as opposed to the others, scientists hope they will discover ways to guide cells toward a particular path - perhaps skin to replace some that has been lost.