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Biologists use mathematics to advance our understanding of health and disease
Date:2/20/2010

les 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 effec
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Contact: Susan Trulove
strulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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