March is already winding to a close, but we wanted to take a quick break to answer that most burning of all questions: what is going on with our cover this month?
On p.331 of this month’s issue, Owen Rackham and colleagues describe an algorithm called Mogrify that predicts transcription factor combinations for direct reprogramming between 173 human cell types and 134 tissues (see also the News and Views by Patrick Cahan).
Mogrify effectively paints a landscape of cell conversions and provides directions for getting from one point to another. This is often visualized using a variation on Waddington’s epigenetic landscape (for example, see “A deterministic map of Waddington’s epigenetic landscape for cell fate specification” by Bhattacharya et al.).
The epigentic landscape as imagined by Waddington involves a marble (the cell) rolling down a hill with many alternate paths (cell fates).
You can imagine the image on the cover (depicting talus deposits on the surface of a mountain in Norway) as the epigenetic landscape, with the different cell fates rising out of the pluripotent state. In this case, there is no marble, because the cell and its fate (address on the landscape) are in fact the same thing. But similar to the talus cones, the cell’s fate is not unchangeable. As Mogrify makes clear, the cell has the potential to transform into many different cell types, regardless of its current address on the landscape. We just have to understand the map to help it get there.
Other articles related to Mogrify:
Breakthrough in human cell transformation could revolutionise regenerative medicine (University of Bristol press release)
Serendipity’s touch on cell conversions (Duke-NUS)