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Paper Chase

Dissecting Engineered Cell Types and Enhancing Cell Fate Conversion via CellNet.

Cell. Aug 14, 2014;158(4):889-902.
Morris SA, Cahan P, Li H, Zhao AM, San Roman AK, Shivdasani RA, Collins JJ, Daley GQ.

Stem Cell Transplantation Program, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston Children's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. Electronic address:


Engineering clinically relevant cells in vitro holds promise for regenerative medicine, but most protocols fail to faithfully recapitulate target cell properties. To address this, we developed CellNet, a network biology platform that determines whether engineered cells are equivalent to their target tissues, diagnoses aberrant gene regulatory networks, and prioritizes candidate transcriptional regulators to enhance engineered conversions. Using CellNet, we improved B cell to macrophage conversion, transcriptionally and functionally, by knocking down predicted B cell regulators. Analyzing conversion of fibroblasts to induced hepatocytes (iHeps), CellNet revealed an unexpected intestinal program regulated by the master regulator Cdx2. We observed long-term functional engraftment of mouse colon by iHeps, thereby establishing their broader potential as endoderm progenitors and demonstrating direct conversion of fibroblasts into intestinal epithelium. Our studies illustrate how CellNet can be employed to improve direct conversion and to uncover unappreciated properties of engineered cells.