The Winners of the first Dicty World Race

Lab Note #26
May 19, 2014
Hi everyone, 

The winners of the Dicty World Race 2014 are the Dicty cells submitted by the lab of Arjan Kortholt and Peter van Haastert from U. Groningen, Netherlands!  These cells were trained by Ineke Keizer-Gunnink and Rama Kataria.  Congratulations to them!  

The winner cells accounted for a remarkable 60% of the cells in the top 100 to finish the race.  In second place, are the HL60 cells from the group of Guillaume Charras in London, UK.  The other top place finishers are
1.  A. Kortholt and P. van Haastert lab (Dicty)
2.  G. Charras lab (HL60)
3.  J. Faix lab (Dicty)
4.  M. Myre lab (Dicty)
5.  A. Kimmel lab (Dicty)
6.  T. Bruce lab (Dicty)

We include details on the race and cell lines below, so please read on.  At the end, we discuss our plans to write a scientific paper summarizing the results.  We would like all teams to be included in this paper, even if their cells did not fare well in our hands and in the days leading up to the race.  We hope to get results from all teams under optimal conditions to truly make the most of the remarkable scientific potential of our large-scale comparison of cell speed and accuracy.  

To find the winner, we recorded the time when cells passed the finish line. In total, there were 428 cells reaching the end chamber.  We then arranged all cells in order, and selected the fastest 100. The average time for the first 100 cells to finish the race was about 2 hours.  Cells were run on plates on three microscopes, with the reference time being the time when the cells were loaded on the microscope.  

Interestingly enough, the winning cells were not the fastest, but ranked high in efficiency in crossing the maze.  In contrast, the second place Charras team was the fastest (qualified) team, but not the most efficient (i.e. they made a lot of mistakes in the maze).   Efficiency was estimated for now as the ratio between the shortest path through the maze and the average length of the actual path.  (The latter was roughly estimated as the time in the maze divided by the cell speed calculated in the final stretch of the maze).  This analysis is very preliminary, and will take some time until we make all the measurements to rigorously calculate these quantities.  

In an unexpected turn of events, the fastest cells were actually a second (and hence unqualified for the grand prize) submission by the team of A. Kimmel .  They were clocked going on average 28um/min, which is almost three time as fast as the average Dicty.  These cells were wild type cells doped with a special protein mix.  Following the rules of the race, the Kimmel team had to choose one submission for the grand prize, which placed an honorable 5th place.  If chosen, the "doped" cells would have won the second place, quite a remarkable achievement.

We tried to follow all the protocols recommended by the teams, but in practice, this was very challenging given the time constraints.  Some cells were in too low numbers, or did not grow well in our hands.  We speculate that many adhesion mutants may have had a hard time moving towards the maze chambers. We are learning from our mistakes and will come up with better solutions next year, which will enable cells to be grown and developed optimally.  Sending a student to prepare their cells next year and learning about microfluidics in a workshop before the race is one possibility.  

Finally, we are planning on collaborating on a scientific paper and will be in touch about this.  We would like to encourage all the teams to perform the race themselves under their optimal conditions with their mutants and the corresponding background strain and send us their results.  If this is not feasible, we are willing to help and run the strains again under a less hectic environment:)  In addition to setting a reference point for the next race, we believe we have a lot of interesting science to showcase.  For example, when done under optimal conditions, we will still find a striking anti-correlation between cell speed and accuracy?   Thanks so much for participating in this year's race and hope you all had as much fun as we did.  With Dicty in first place and HL60 in second place this year, we hope the rivalry between these model cells will continue to grow and encourage a lively and fierce competition next year!

Dicty World Race Organizers
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