Navigation Links
Biologists use mathematics to advance our understanding of health and disease

Blacksburg, Va. -- Math-based computer models are a powerful tool for discovering the details of complex living systems. John Tyson, professor of biology at Virginia Tech, is creating such models to discover how cells process information and make decisions.

"Cells receive information in the form of chemical signals, physical attachments to other cells, or radiation damage, for instance," Tyson said. "On the basis of this information, the cells must make the correct response, such as to grow and divide, or to stop growing and repair damage, or to commit suicide."

The question for a molecular biologist is: What are the underlying molecular mechanisms that implement these information processing systems? "Just as computer is an information processing system, with silicon chips, wires, mother board, clock, and power source, a cell is a an information processing system made of genes, messenger RNAs, proteins, and enzymes," Tyson said. "Somehow these molecules interact with each other to detect signals, make decisions, and implement the proper response."

Tyson and other biologists want to know how jumbles of molecules can figure out how a cell should respond to its environment in order to survive, grow, and reproduce. "So we do what any good engineer would do. We create a mathematical model of the components and their interactions, and let the computer work out the details."

Tyson will present his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting February 18-22 in San Diego, as part of a session on "Moving Across Scales: Mathematics for Investigating Biological Hierarchies," which includes talks ranging from "HIV interventions in Africa" to the "Neural Dynamics of Decision Making." Tyson will talk about "Molecular Network Dynamics and Cell Physiology," or the cell as an information-processing system.

The speakers in this session will illustrate how math models help scientists reason across scales in biology, such as from interactions between sick and healthy people to the spread of global pandemics. Whereas models of this sort can inform public health decisions on a global scale, Tyson's research addresses basic science at the smallest scale bridging the gap from molecules to cells. "We have to first understand the molecular basis of normal cell behavior; then we have a chance of figuring out how the system is broken in diseased cells," said Tyson.

"What decision-making processes tell a cell when to grow and divide and when to just hang-out? It is mistakes in this decision process that cause cancer. Tumors are cells growing when and where they shouldn't. Cancer is a collection of diseases caused by faulty decision-making at the cellular level. The cells are no longer obeying the rules. We know the cause is in the molecules that are supposed to be enforcing these rules."

During the course of his research, Tyson and colleagues have used computer simulations to test their math models. "If the math model behaves in the computer the way cells behave in the lab, we gain confidence that we understand the molecular interactions correctly. If not, we can be sure that our models are missing something important."

Tyson will talk about the control of cell division in yeast and in mammalian cells. "Yeast cells are easy to work with in the lab, and their molecular control systems are very similar to the control systems in mammalian cells," he said As a result of the success that Tyson and his colleagues have had in modeling yeast cell growth and division, they are now making the transition to mammalian cells and cancer.

"We do not yet have an engineer's understanding of normal mammalian cell proliferation and of what goes wrong in cancer cells," Tyson said. "Cancer treatment is still a matter of cutting out, blasting, or poisoning cancer cellsand any normal cells that get in the way. We could be more subtle and perhaps more effective in treating cancers if we had a systematic insider's understanding of the molecular networks that control cell growth, division and death, and an ability to manipulate this control system with a new array of drugs and procedures."


Contact: Susan Trulove
Virginia Tech

Related biology news :

1. Biologists image birth of blood-forming stem cells in embryo
2. Penn biologists determine microRNA activity is suppressed in mouse ovum
3. CCNY biologists identify new spiny pocket mouse species
4. Penn biologists explain how organisms can tolerate mutations, yet adapt to environmental change
5. Biologists merge methods, results from different disciplines to find new meaning in old data
6. New handbook for biologists who need more competence or confidence in statistics
7. Biologists discover bacterial defense mechanism against aggressive oxygen
8. Beyond genomics, biologists and engineers decode the next frontier
9. Biologists, educators recognize excellence in evolution education
10. NIMBioS hosts tutorial on optimal control and optimization for biologists
11. Biologists discover death stench is a universal ancient warning signal
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Biologists use mathematics to advance our understanding of health and disease
(Date:11/10/2015)... , Nov. 10, 2015  In this ... the basis of product, type, application, disease ... in this report are consumables, services, software. ... are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, and validation ... report are diagnostics development, drug discovery and ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... , November 4, 2015 ... new market report published by Transparency Market Research "Home Security ... Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global home security ... 30.3 bn by 2022. The market is estimated to ... period from 2015 to 2022. Rising security needs among ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... -- Daon, a global leader in mobile biometric authentication ... version of its IdentityX Platform , IdentityX v4.0. ... have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and are seeing ... UAF certified server component as an option and ... These customers include some of the largest and most ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... Florida , November 30, 2015 ... specializing in the development of innovative peptide and gene-based ... metastatic disease, today announced it will be presenting at ... on December 1, 2015 at 2.30 PM PT. Dr. ... and Strategic Advisor will be giving the presentation and ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... 2015  Aytu BioScience, Inc. (OTCQB: AYTU), a commercial-stage ... will present at two upcoming investor conferences. Aytu is ... virtual conference, to be held December 3, 2015, and ... held December 2 nd & 3 rd , ... streamed live via webcast. Josh Disbrow , ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... RATON, Florida and MAGDEBURG, Germany ... Congress of NeuroRehabilitation (ECNR) in Vienna, Austria ... 3rd European Congress of NeuroRehabilitation (ECNR) in ... 2015. --> NovaVision, a wholly owned subsidiary of ... the European version of its Internet-delivered NovaVision Therapy Suite at ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... integration with MarkLogic, the Enterprise NoSQL database platform provider, creating a seamless ... , Smartlogic’s Content Intelligence capabilities provide a robust set of semantic tools ...
Breaking Biology Technology: