This week a paper published by a team of international researchers at the University of Bristol has sent excitement rippling through the cell therapy community. The team comprised of collaborators from Bristol, Australia, Singapore and Japan published the breakthrough last Monday (18/01) in Nature Genetics. They presented the creation of a predictive system (Mogrify) that can forecast how to create any human cell type from another cell type directly, bypassing the need for exhaustive trial and error.
The team led by Julian Gough have so far applied Mogrify to 173 human cell types and 134 tissues, outlining an index of cellular reprogramming. Speaking about the breakthrough Gough, professor of bioinformatics, revealed to the University of Bristol that “the barrier to progress in the 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”.
Secondly, when listing further achievements from the research, conducted in collaboration with Professor Jose Polo at Monash University in Australia, Gough confirmed that Mogrify had validated two new transdifferentiations. The algorithm succeeded first time in validating both of the new transdifferentiations, and it is this speed in achieving results that lends clear indication to the claim of Mogrify being revolutionary. Professor Gough added that he hoped “Mogrify will enable the creation of a great number of human cell types in the lab”.
This is a huge result for the regenerative medicine field and will no doubt speed up advances in life-changing medicines. Particularly, the ability to produce a number of types of human cells will directly lead to new tissue therapies, and a much improved understanding of cell production at a molecular level. One hope going forward is the potential to grow whole organs from someone’s own cells.
For five years Gough collaborated with Dr Owen Rackham to create a computational algorithm to predict the cellular factors for cell conversions. This was achieved largely in thanks to data collected as a part of the FANTOM international consortium, of which Gough is a member.
To highlight the size of the achievement, it must be remembered that scientists have only been able to discover conversions of human cells a handful of times since Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka created the first human artificial pluripotent stem cells in 2007.
The algorithm has been released and made available online for others to use, so that the field may advance at a much faster pace.
The paper ‘Mogrify: An Atlas for Direct Reprogramming Between Human Cell Types’ by Rackham et al in Nature Genetics.