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Contact: Bess Andrews
Children's Hospital Boston

Stem Cell Attractors

Caption: The green balls represent blood stem cells in a stable "basin" on the landscape, where they remain stem cells. Each position on the landscape that the balls occupy corresponds to a gene expression state and can be assigned an “energy.” An increase in the balls’ energy or movement within the basin enhances the likelihood that a ball will escape from the basin, but does not bias it towards a particular fate (in this case, red or white blood cells). Only a change in the landscape induced by a differentiation factor may tip the balance toward another stable state, causing the stem cells to "roll down the valleys" and differentiate to either red or white blood cells.

Credit: Courtesy Sui Huang, MD, PhD, Children's Hospital Boston and University of Calgary

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Related news release: Many paths, few destinations: How stem cells decide what they'll be

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