Children's Hospital Boston Launches Virtual Stem Cell Laboratory

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Web-based Flash simulation allows users to manipulate stem cells and learn about stem cell research.

Prod. Manipulate. Investigate. The interactive offerings on the Children’s Hospital Boston Research Web site invite users to express their inner scientist. And today the site adds a new feature: a Virtual Stem Cell Laboratory.

The interactive stem cell laboratory is home to a computer-generated “living” culture of embryonic stem cells. When users launch the Flash-based feature, the cells quickly begin to reproduce through the process of mitosis (cell division). Users can then add different "coaxing" factors -- proteins, for example -- to differentiate the cells into increasingly specialized cell types.

From the initial colony of embryonic stem cells, virtual scientists can create 16 cell types ranging from red blood cells to motor neurons. The cells are even programmed to behave like their real counterparts. As the lab produces new cell types, the user learns what scientists know about the cells, including any known or potential therapeutic applications. Run your own experiments at http://www.childrenshospital.org/research.

More to Explore

Tensegrity in a Cell

For more than three decades, Children's researcher Donald Ingber, MD, PhD, has explored and verified the notion that living cells are tensegrity structures -- structures that stabilize themselves by balancing tension and compression. With this interactive feature, users can control a cell's internal structural elements to discover what tensegrity is all about and why it's important to cell function.

Introduction to Proteomics

Proteomics -- the study of protein complexity in cells, tissues and organisms -- is the hot new science that picks up where the Human Genome Project left off. With this animated, user-controlled interactive feature, find out how researchers sequence and identify proteins. You can also take a virtual tour of Children's new Proteomics Center and read about how researchers are using proteomics to better understand the human body and improve medical care.

Plus:

  • Watch a video clip of a tumor repelling blood vessel cells when an anti-cancer agent is introduced
  • See a key part of the AIDS virus change shape, allowing it to enter a cell
  • Take a retrospective look at polio 50 years after the last major epidemic -- includes archival film footage, a photo gallery, and audio clips of survivors' stories
  • Explore a gallery of beautiful microscopy images that blur the line between science and art
  • Learn about clinical and laboratory research throughout Children's Hospital Boston

http://www.childrenshospital.org/research

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Jamie Newton