Light-Scattering Techniques to Determine Stem Cell Fates

University of California System: University of California, Merced
posted on 06/09/2011

Determination of stem cell fates, including ascertaining the differentiation status and forecasting the outcome for a given stem cell or stem cell colony, is critical in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. However, commonly employed procedures for making such determinations, such as immunofluorescence and flow cytometry, can involve time-consuming and costly sample preparation and often (especially for human stem cells) require the sacrifice of the cells. Researchers in the Laboratory of Dr. Wei-Chun at UC Merced have recently developed new stem cell assay that is faster, less intrusive, and less expensive.

Suggested Uses

The UCM system for assaying stem cell fates may help facilitate stem cell therapies that have been proposed for heart disease, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, and other significant health problems, and more generally should find widespread use in most stem cell protocols. In particular, this invention should improve quality control for any stem cell protocol that requires strict monitoring and control of cell growth and differentiation during cell incubation.

The Chin laboratory is continuing to use these cell lines to validate and screen drug compouds from industry collaborators.  UC Merced is seeking licensing partners interested in using the cell lines for small molecule screening.  A manuscript describing this invention was recently submitted for publication.  A U.S. Provisional Patent Application has been filed: No. 61/610,397  


In contrast to existing stem cell fate assays, the UCM system:

  • is non-intrusive;
  • is low cost;
  • requires only 3–4 minutes to analyze one plate, or 5–7 seconds per cell cluster/colony; and
  • provides real-time measurement or forecasting of stem cell differentiation outcomes.

Innovation Details

Detailed Description

This improved assay for stem cell fates is based on forward light scattering/diffraction images of the cells.  The system takes advantage of phenotype- dependent optical effects associated with cell morphology, dielectric parameters and other cell properties affecting interactions with an incident laser light beam. Using appropriate methods for rapidly generating and capturing images, one can compare the results to a reference image database to quickly determine the degree of differentiation displayed by a colony.  In experiments with human embryonic stem cell colonies with known differentiation statuses, the researchers achieved an accuracy of better than 87% with their system, and ultimately should be able to achieve better than 90% through the use of machine-learning methods for image classification.

a   a  A single colony was illuminated with laser beam and the scattering pattern was projected on the detectors.  The light intensity of scattering patterns created by good colonies showed more homogeneous distribution (a) comparing to the one from unacceptable colonies (b)


File Number: 21760 

IP Protection

Copyright: ©2011-2014, The Regents of the University of California

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This innovation currently is not available for online licensing. Please contact David Cepoi at University of California System: University of California, Merced for more information.

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