On the symmetry of siblings: automated single-cell tracking to quantify the behavior of hematopoietic stem cells in a biomimetic setup

Exp Hematol. 2012 Feb;40(2):119-30.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.exphem.2011.10.009. Epub 2011 Nov 13.


The interplay between hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC) and their local microenvironment is a key mechanism for the organization of hematopoiesis. To quantitatively study this process, a time-resolved analysis of cellular dynamics at the single-cell level is an essential prerequisite. One way to generate sufficient amounts of appropriate data is automatic single-cell tracking using time-lapse video microscopy. We describe and apply newly developed computational algorithms that allow for an automated generation of high-content data of single-cell characteristics at high temporal and spatial resolution, together with the reconstruction and statistical evaluation of complete genealogical histories. This methodology has been applied to the particular example of purified primary human HSPCs in bioengineered culture conditions. The combination of genealogical information and dynamic profiles of cellular properties identified a marked symmetry between sibling HSPCs regarding cell cycle time, but also migration speed and growth kinetics. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this symmetry of HSPC siblings can be altered by exogenous cues of the local biomimetic microenvironment. Using the example of HSPC growth in biomimetic culture systems, we show that our approach provides a valuable tool for the quantitative analysis of dynamic single-cell features under defined in vitro conditions, allowing for integration of functional and genealogical data. The efficiency and accuracy of our approach pave the way for new and intriguing insights into the organizational principles of developmental patterns and the respective influence of exogenous cues not limited to the study of primary HSPCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomimetics*
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Tracking*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Single-Cell Analysis