Determination of somatic and cancer stem cell self-renewing symmetric division rate using sphere assays

PLoS One. 2011 Jan 5;6(1):e15844. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015844.


Representing a renewable source for cell replacement, neural stem cells have received substantial attention in recent years. The neurosphere assay represents a method to detect the presence of neural stem cells, however owing to a deficiency of specific and definitive markers to identify them, their quantification and the rate they expand is still indefinite. Here we propose a mathematical interpretation of the neurosphere assay allowing actual measurement of neural stem cell symmetric division frequency. The algorithm of the modeling demonstrates a direct correlation between the overall cell fold expansion over time measured in the sphere assay and the rate stem cells expand via symmetric division. The model offers a methodology to evaluate specifically the effect of diseases and treatments on neural stem cell activity and function. Not only providing new insights in the evaluation of the kinetic features of neural stem cells, our modeling further contemplates cancer biology as cancer stem-like cells have been suggested to maintain tumor growth as somatic stem cells maintain tissue homeostasis. Indeed, tumor stem cell's resistance to therapy makes these cells a necessary target for effective treatment. The neurosphere assay mathematical model presented here allows the assessment of the rate malignant stem-like cells expand via symmetric division and the evaluation of the effects of therapeutics on the self-renewal and proliferative activity of this clinically relevant population that drive tumor growth and recurrence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Division*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Methods
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology*