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Mol Cell. 2016 Jun 2;62(5):788-802. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2016.05.023.

What's Luck Got to Do with It: Single Cells, Multiple Fates, and Biological Nondeterminism.

Author information

1
Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Electronic address: usymmons@yahoo.com.
2
Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. Electronic address: arjunrajlab@gmail.com.

Abstract

The field of single-cell biology has morphed from a philosophical digression at its inception, to a playground for quantitative biologists, to a major area of biomedical research. The last several years have witnessed an explosion of new technologies, allowing us to apply even more of the modern molecular biology toolkit to single cells. Conceptual progress, however, has been comparatively slow. Here, we provide a framework for classifying both the origins of the differences between individual cells and the consequences of those differences. We discuss how the concept of "random" differences is context dependent, and propose that rigorous definitions of inputs and outputs may bring clarity to the discussion. We also categorize ways in which probabilistic behavior may influence cellular function, highlighting studies that point to exciting future directions in the field.

PMID:
27259209
PMCID:
PMC4900469
DOI:
10.1016/j.molcel.2016.05.023
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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