A visual analytics approach for models of heterogeneous cell populations

, , , , , und . Eurasip Journal on Bioinformatics and Systems Biology 2012 (1): 4 (Dezember 2012)


In recent years, cell population models have become increasingly common. In contrast to classic single cell models, population models allow for the study of cell-to-cell variability, a crucial phenomenon in most populations of primary cells, cancer cells, and stem cells. Unfortunately, tools for in-depth analysis of population models are still missing. This problem originates from the complexity of population models. Particularly important are methods to determine the source of heterogeneity (e.g., genetics or epigenetic differences) and to select potential (bio-)markers. We propose an analysis based on visual analytics to tackle this problem. Our approach combines parallel-coordinates plots, used for a visual assessment of the high-dimensional dependencies, and nonlinear support vector machines, for the quantification of effects. The method can be employed to study qualitative and quantitative differences among cells. To illustrate the different components, we perform a case study using the proapoptotic signal transduction pathway involved in cellular apoptosis.

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