An international team led by researchers at the University of Bristol has created a system called "Mogrify" that predicts how to create any human cell type from another cell type directly—without the need for experimental trial and error.

Taking Out the Guesswork

Pluripotent stem cells, cells that can be grown into almost anything, can be used to treat many different medical conditions and diseases. The problem is producing them efficiently. The first human artificial pluripotent stem cells were created by Shinya Yamanaka in 2007. However, the process to produce them was lengthy and involved a lot of trial and error.

Now, with the new Mogrify system, scientists are able to predict the cellular factors for cell conversions. The computational algorithm, which took five years to develop, could open the door to a new range of treatments for a variety of medical conditions.

Julian Gough, professor of bioinformatics at the University of Bristol, noted the current problem and how this new system helps to address it: "The barrier to progress in this field is the very limited types of cells scientists are able to produce. Our system, Mogrify, is a bioinformatics resource that will allow experimental biologists to bypass the need to create stem cells."

University of Bristol

"Mogrify predicts how to create any human cell type from any other cell type directly. With Professor Jose Polo at Monash University in Australia, we tested it on two new human cell conversions, and succeeded the first time for both. The speed with which this was achieved suggests Mogrify will enable the creation of a great number of human cell types in the lab," explains Professor Gough. 

Growing Cells to Growing Whole Organs

Gough believes that this research "represents a significant breakthrough in regenerative medicine, and paves the way for life-changing medical advances within a few years from now, and the possibility in the longer term of improving the quality of longer lives, as well as making them longer."

"The ability to produce numerous types of human cells will lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds," says Gough, specifically citing conditions such as arthritis, macular degeneration, and heart disease. Eventually, with further understanding, scientists may be growing whole organs from someone's own cells.

Mogrify has been made available online for other researchers and scientists, so that the field may advance rapidly.

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