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Mapping cell development one line at a time

NSF Award:

CAREER: Characterizing a Landscape of Signal Processing in the Immune System  (Columbia University)

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The human body is composed of trillions of cells divided into multiple types, each bearing different molecular features and behavior. But all of these cells have their origin in a single cell. Using a powerful computational algorithm called Wanderlust, NSF-funded researchers have mapped the complex cell development process for B cells, a cell line that creates white blood cells responsible for producing antibodies.

The Wanderlust algorithm's comprehensive analysis of human B cell generation lays a foundation for applications to other cell lines. Such maps will help elucidate how and where development is derailed in disease, and by defining the normal development process, act as a compass for regenerative medicine. Of particular importance is Wanderlust's ability to identify and characterize the regulatory checkpoints that control and monitor cell fate.

To create a development map, Wanderlust analyzes patterns and shapes created as the development process unfolds. The algorithm then maps these into a graphic representation that is used to trace the continuous trajectory that cellular development follows. This kind of analysis will eventually assist in the creation of a map of every cell type in the body and how each progressively develops from a single stem cell, pinpointing every cell fate decision along the way.


  • a powerful algorithm helps researchers map complex cell development
Wanderlust determined key elements that characterize healthy human B-cell development.
Dana Pe'er, Columbia University

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