Just as humans decide how much of their wealth to spend versus passing it on to their children, stem cells may divide and re-create based on whether it’s more important for them to conserve their genetic identity or pass along a portion of other, nongenetic information to the next generation, according to a paper published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The novel approach modeled in the paper is the result of a unique collaboration between UC Irvine mathematicians and Simon Levin, a Princeton University ecologist who’s a distinguished visiting professor with UC Irvine’s Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. “It’s a really interesting breakthrough integrating knowledge from biology, applied math and economics,” said co-author Qing Nie, a UC Irvine math professor whose former postdoctoral fellow Jinzhi Lei (now at Tsinghua University in Beijing) is lead author. The findings could be valuable in the development of lifesaving stem cells.