The maintenance of pluripotency in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), its loss during lineage specification or its re-induction to generate induced pluripotent stem cells are central topics in stem cell biology. To uncover the molecular basis and the design principles of pluripotency control, a multitude of experimental, but also an increasing number of computational, studies have been published. Here, we consider recent reports that apply computational or mathematical modelling approaches to describe the regulatory processes that underlie cell fate decisions in mouse ESCs. We summarise the principles, the strengths and potentials but also the limitations of different computational strategies.
Stem cells and their descendents are the building blocks of life. How stem cell populations guarantee their maintenance and/or self-renewal, and how individual stem cells decide to transit from one cell stage to another to generate different cell types are long-standing and fascinating questions in the field. Here, we review the discussions that took place at a recent EMBO conference in Cambridge, UK, in which these questions were placed in the context of the latest advances in stem cell biology in presentations that covered stem cell heterogeneity, cell fate decision-making, induced pluripotency, as well as the mathematical modelling of these phenomena.