Seeing Humanity in Engineered Cells

Seeing Humanity in Engineered Cells

Timothy Kassis

MIT Department of Biological Engineering, Koch Institute at MIT

Diabetes is a common disease in which the glucose regulating cells in the pancreas, that form spheroids called islets, fail at their function. My grandma passed away 5 years ago because of various complications from diabetes. She lost her sight and had her leg amputated before having various organ failure leading to her death. Her struggle throughout life and especially towards the end of it has been my inspiration in working on developing more relevant research tools to understand the disease, how it progresses and how to treat it. The first image is that of a human islet that has been transformed using a deep convolutional neural network to integrate various features of my grandma into the islet through a process known as style transfer. The second image takes a similar approach but features of an islet are integrated into an image of my grandma instead.

These two images illustrate the numerous advances we have made in bioengineering as well as computer science and the fact that marrying these two disciplines will open up research worlds we’ve never ‘seen’ before! They were created in order to show the human side of my research. To show that at the end of the day we should see our patients in every in vitro model we create.

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