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Computers make sense of experiments on human disease
Date:11/12/2008

Increased use of computers to create predictive models of human disease is likely following a workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which urged for a collaborative effort between specialists in the field. Human disease research produces an enormous amount of data from different sources such as animal models, high throughput genetic screening of human tissue, and in vitro laboratory experiments. This data operates at different levels and scales including genes, molecules, cells, tissues and whole organs, embodying a huge amount of potentially valuable insight that current computer modelling approaches often fail to exploit properly.

However, significant advances in the modelling of a few specific diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), have been made. A major aim of the ESF workshop was thus to generalise such work and create a more coherent body of expertise across the whole field of computational disease analysis, according to Albert Compte, co-convenor of the ESF workshop, from the Computational and physiological bases of cortical networks laboratory at the Institut d'Investigacions Biomdiques August Pi Sunyer (IDIBAPS) in Barcelona. "A workshop like this one was useful in seeing how advances in other research fields can be used more generally for disease modelling," said Compte. "So far, novel modelling approaches have been confined to a specific disease or a particular level of description".

A model might be confined just to the molecular level or the cellular level for example. The ESF workshop highlighted the benefits that could be obtained from integrating data from different levels. This can provide more detailed and flexible models, with greater power to identify causes of diseases and predict possible cures in future.

However, one potential problem when building sophisticated disease models operating at different levels is that they can become too complex, with a lack of sufficient data for any
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Contact: Albert COMPTE
acompte@clinic.ub.es
34-932-275-400-4151
European Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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