Using time-lapse microscopy images, Zhaozheng Yin can record the movement and division of cells and track changes in their shape and appearance. His research could lead to advances in the growth of stem cells for medical purposes.
Yin, an assistant professor of computer science, earned a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation to support his research.
“There is a lot of interest in using a person’s own stem cells to repair an injury — like for a soldier wounded in combat,” says Yin. “Stem cells can be grown very quickly, but biologists need to be able to control the growth of cells and decide whether they should become bone, blood or skin. Our goal is to help biological researchers see the process of the stem cell growth so they can learn from it.”
Using a time-lapse video sequence, Yin tracks and monitors individual cells. “Every time a cell divides it creates ‘children,’ each with its own family tree. It looks like a garden,” he says. “These trees give us a lot of information to compute. An algorithm counts the cells, tracks how fast they divide and when they die.”