Highlights from ISMB – Day 2

I’ll be continuing my updates on the Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) conference with some of the research that I saw today.

Tracking Cells in 4D by live cell imaging
Terumasa Tokunaga from the Institute of Statistical Mathematics in Japan presented a novel algorithm for tracking the positions of cells in 3D over time. He applied the algorithm to track neurons in C. elegans which had been florescently labeled and captured through fluorescence microscopy. Briefly, the algorithm identifies cells as the local maxima in density after smoothing with a kernel density function. A “repulsion” parameter aids in capturing local maxima rather than converging on the absolute maximum of the density. A maximum spanning tree is then built between cells and used to track the movement over time. This helps avoid merging trackers of individual cells or having trackers switch from one cell to another.

This method has the potential to be applied to study differentiation in more complicated organisms after the authors can allow for cell division. They did initial work on C. elegans because there are a fixed number of cells in adults, and they could assume no cell division.

ISCB and Student Council business meeting
I was interested in this meeting because I want to volunteer with the ISCB student council in planning the next conference (in Dublin, no less)! The student council also presented awards to the best oral presentation and two best poster presentations to three very talented students who I met on Friday.

Keynote by ISCB Overton Prize winner Dana Pe’er
This was, hands down, one of the most interesting scientific talks I’ve ever seen. Pe’er is answering questions about cell differentiation and heterogeneity though high-throughput single cell analysis methods. The concentrations of several biomarkers can be quantified at the single cell level through a technique known as mass cytrometry. Measuring these quantities in single cells puts statisticians back in the environment they are comfortable with – a small number of variables and many samples (as opposed to the big p, small situation so common in genomics). She also introduced some new methods for multivariate statistical analysis and dimensionality reduction (notable the Wonderlust and DREMI algorithms) that deserve a blog post of their own!

Reception at MIT
The ISCB was nice enough to give the volunteers a ticket to a reception at the MIT museum after the talks finished today. This was a great chance to socialize with the students and others in a cool environment, see the museum (it’s changed a lot since I was there 6 years ago!) and munch on some hors d’evours. I could definitely get used to all of these kind of events at conferences!

ISMB finishes tomorrow. Stay tuned for some more highlights and a post about the industry members I’ve been talking with.

Posted in ISMB2014, Uncategorized.

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