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Computing Systems

Integrating Biology

Identifying all the parts of a cell or organism won't necessarily tell you how those parts work together to make the system run. To do this, scientists have turned to a relatively new field called systems biology that combines experimental data and computational models to diagram everything from how cells move to how hearts beat. With the diagrams, the researchers can tinker with different parts and begin to explore questions nearly impossible to answer through traditional lab experiments.

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Artist's rendition of a network diagram. Credit: Allison Kudla, Institute for Systems BiologKnowing Networks | 5/14/14
Systems biologists study living networks to learn how the individual parts work together to make a functioning whole and what happens when these complex, dynamic systems go awry.

RatVirtual Rats to Help Researchers Study Disease | 8/11/11
Most lab rats have to be housed, fed and bred. The group Daniel Beard has in mind for his new systems biology center will be virtual.

Dr. Peter SorgerWhy Cells Make Different Decisions | 4/14/11
Systems biologist Peter Sorger uses mathematical modeling and experiments to study cellular behaviors and why cells make different choices.

Gavrilets' models may explain division of labor in social insects and the origin of biological complexity.Modeling the Origin of Organisms | 8/05/10
New models may help explain the origin of multicellular organisms and lead to real-life applications.

This network map shows the overlap (green) between the long QT syndrome (yellow) and epilepsy (blue) protein-interaction neighborhoods located within the human interactome. Credit: Seth Berger, co-author and a computer scientist participating in a combined M.D.-Ph.D. program at Mount SinaiNew Genetic Framework Could Help Explain Drug Side Effects | 4/20/10
Systems biologists have built a synchronized oscillator-a big step toward developing a blink-based sensor with environmental and drug delivery applications.

Blinking BacteriaBlinking Bacteria | 3/18/10
Systems biologists have built a synchronized oscillator-a big step toward developing a blink-based sensor with environmental and drug delivery applications.

Chronic wounds affect an estimated 6.5 million people in the United States each year. Credit: Jonathan MooreModeling How Wounds Heal | 9/28/09
Researchers have built the first math model of a type of chronic wound that can lead to amputation and even death.

Calcium and calcium-regulating molecules move in 3D inside a cell. Credit: Bridget Wilson, University of New Mexico Of Cells and Circuits | 7/27/09
A new center that includes researchers from diverse fields will model how events in cells happen in space and time.

Bridget WilsonCenter Co-Director Bridget Wilson on Systems Biology (MOV) | 7/13/2009
Learn the basics about systems biology and the mission of this field. (Runtime: 00:3:39 | 18.6 MB)

Bridget WilsonBridget Wilson Outlines Goals of New Center (MOV) | 7/13/09
The co-director of a new national center for systems biology discusses research plans. (Runtime: 00:2:59 | 18.7 MB)

The fuzzy logic model produces diagrams like this one that allow scientists to visualize what is happening inside a cell. Credit: Doug Lauffenburger 'Fuzzy' Modeling Approach Sharpens View of Cellular Decision-Making | 4/16/09
Using "fuzzy logic," researchers bring the cells' inner workings into focus—and help us understand human diseases and potential treatments.

Ravi IyengarQ&A: Ravi Iyengar on Molecular Systems | 3/30/09
Ravi Iyengar says his favorite hobby is science. Good thing it's also his full-time job! He's trying to figure out how molecules and other parts help a cell function.

Heart rates of four people.Salvaging Signals for Health | 2/2/09
Just as automakers use recycled steel scraps to build cars, scientists are reusing previously discarded medical data to better understand our complex physiology.

Bridget WilsonTracking Bacteria in the Blood | 11/26/08
To better understand bacterial bloodstream infections, John Younger is working with mathematicians and engineers to think about the problem in a whole new way.

Breast cancer cell with active fingerlike protrusions called invadopodia (pink) that degrade the extracellular matrix (green). Credit: Kevin Branch of the Weaver LabModeling for New Research | 9/24/08
Cancer biologist Alissa Weaver uses models to generate new research hypotheses—and results.

Prey cells (red) are forced to the center of the plate when predator cells (green) are initially placed at four points around the petri dish. Credit: Hao SongEngineering an Ecosystem | 7/9/08
New research is unveiling predator-prey interactions in a place much smaller than the Serengeti—a petri dish.

Simple Answers | 10/8/2007
In 15,580 different situations, the bacterium E. coli and its 1,010 genes rely on just 6 basic ways to survive.

Podcast: Interview with Drew Endy on his Science (MP3) | Transcript | 11/30/2006
Find out why Drew Endy became a synthetic biologist. (Runtime: 00:30:21 | 17.3 MB)

Podcast: Interview with Drew Endy on his Life (MP3) | Transcript | 11/30/2006
Get the scoop on Drew Endy, his background and interests beyond synthetic biology. (Runtime: 00:5:24 | 3.1 MB)

Credit: Drew EndyComic: Programming DNA External link
Synthetic biologist Drew Endy created this comic book to teach students about his field of science.

From the Print Issue

»  Bacteria Blast Off
»  Connected Worlds
»  On the Move

This page last reviewed on May 14, 2014