New Algorithms to identify similar cell types from species which includes fish, mice, flatworms and sponges that have diverged for hundreds of millions of years, which could help fill in gaps in our understanding of evolution. Cells are the building blocks of life and it is present in every living organism. Their method, detailed in a paper published on May 4, 2021, in eLife, is designed to compare cell types in different species.
Comparing cell types in different species across the tree of life can help biologists understand how cell types arose and how they have adapted to the functional needs of different life forms. This has been of increasing interest to evolutionary biologists in recent years because new technology now allows sequencing and identifying all cells throughout whole organisms.
For their research, the team used seven species to compare 21 different pairings and were able to identify cell types present in all species along with their similarities and differences. Alexander Tarashansky, a graduate student in bioengineering who works in Wang’s laboratory, the idea to create the Algorithms came when Wang walked into the lab one day and asked him if he could analyze cell-type datasets from two different worms the lab studies at the same time. Tarashansky, who was the lead author of the paper and is a Stanford Bio-X Interdisciplinary Fellow assumed that they have similar cell types, but when we try analyzing them using standard techniques, the method doesn’t recognize them as being similar