10/07/2010

SYSTEMS BIOLOGY: INFECTION AND IMMUNITY

ew NIAID Program with Universal Utility
SYSTEMS BIOLOGY: INFECTION AND IMMUNITY
SEEN THROUGH A MATHEMATICAL LOOKING GLASS

 


by Jason Bardi
Signaling Network [for chemosensing] generated by mathematical modeling software that carries out spatially resolved simulations of the behavior of a given network when it is stimulated or perturbed. [See additional figures below.]



























About  five years ago, NIAID scientist Ronald Germain wrote an article for Science magazine with an unlikely title—"The Art of the Probable."(1) He argued in favor of a new, broader way of looking at the immune system—more through the eyes of an engineer or a mathematician than those of a biologist.
 five years ago, NIAID scientist Ronald Germain wrote an article for Science magazine with an unlikely title—"The Art of the Probable."(1) He argued in favor of a new, broader way of looking at the immune system—more through the eyes of an engineer or a mathematician than those of a biologist.
Advocating such an approach was perhaps unusual for a classically trained immunologist like Germain, who is deputy chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunology and chief of the Lymphocyte Biology Section.
But perhaps it was his not being a physical scientist that allowed Germain to appreciate what mathematics might bring to his field—especially then, he recalls. In 2001, the draft of the complete human genome had just been published, and biology was awash with genomic and related data. The field of immunology was going through a golden era of discovery, and many of the molecular and cellular players of the immune system were known. But the connections between the parts that had been catalogued—and deep insights into how this machinery produced immune phenomena—remained elusive. Germain observes today, "We are still far from really understanding the operation of the immune system, by which I mean being able to predict and finely manipulate its behavior."
A broader understanding of immune physiology, he says, might come from embracing a more comprehensive and quantitative approach—an approach broadly encompassed by the otherwise overused term "systems biology." This is a way of studying biology that involves obtaining detailed information on enough components of a system (or even the entire system for simple organisms) to allow quantitative modeling of complex in vivo molecular and cellular events, such as pathogen-induced disease or immune system responses in mice or humans.
To that end, Germain will be leading a new intramural program that will combine systems level analysis with mathematical modeling to better understand host defenses and immune pathology—the Program in Systems Immunology and Infectious Disease Modeling (PSIIM).
Systems Biology Basics
Systems biology is a way of asking how large systems of molecules, cells, and tissues interact with each other. In the past few years, numerous studies have revealed the presence, actions, and interactions of many of the genes, proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and other molecules in healthy and diseased tissues.
Leer más http://www.nih.gov/catalyst/2006/06.09.01/page1.html

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