Windows bug-testing software is providing insight into how stem cells determine which type of tissue to become, demonstrating the potential for software to play a critical role in regenerative medicine. "It is a sign of the convergence between carbon and silicon-based life," says University College London regenerative medicine specialist Chris Mason.
A reliable method of determining whether specific embryonic stem cells renew themselves indefinitely or differentiate into any type of cell in the body could improve research into new medical treatments, says Microsoft Research computational biologist Sara-Jane Dunn. Together with stem cell scientists at the University of Padua and the University of Cambridge, Dunn studied mouse embryonic stem cells to isolate genetic and environmental processes.
The team used a formal verification technique to discover the program that kept the cells in the unspecialized state. Formal verification typically studies software algorithms to ensure the output always meets the programmer's expectations, but can also start with the output to learn about the algorithm that created it. The researchers used this reverse process to input genetic and chemical data from different stem cell cultures into the software, and discovered the self-renewal process is significantly simpler than previously believed.
The researchers also used the software to forecast the cells' responses to genetic changes with about 70 percent accuracy.
From New Scientist
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