Double Strike for Theoretical Systems Biology @CSM !

The year 2012 started well for the Centre of Systems Medicine by providing two new studies that extend the Centre of Systems Medicine’s  competency in methodological approaches and address, for the first time in the history of the centre and the department, two respected journals in the field of Theoretical and Systems Biology.

A study by Heinrich Huber (corresponding author), Niamh Connolly, Heiko Dussmann and Jochen H. M. Prehn was released online in the journal Molecular BioSystems on January 5th. The paper provided  a novel approach that addresses the gap between mechanistically detailed ODE models (which are often impractical for studying large systems because of their highly detailed nature) and models using top-down control analysis (which allow to identify abstract regulation principles, but are not mechanistically justified and often only practicable for systems close to steady state). The new approach will come handy when larger systems are studied that combine metabolic processes (often quasi-steady state processes) with oncogenic signalling (heavily dynamic).

A second paper by Fernando Lopez-Caamal, Miriam Garcia, Rick Middleton and Heinrich Huber was accepted in the Journal of Theoretical Biology on January 13th. The paper is a result of a collaboration between the National University of Maynooth and the Centre of Systems Medicine, RCSI, within the mathematical modelling core of the National Biophotonics Platform (NBIP). Using a pure mathematical treatment,  the authors investigated how growth signals in skeletal muscle cells are propagating in space and time. Since such partial differential equations are often hard or impossible to solve, the authors came up with two biologically justified approximations that allow mathematically exact solutions. Using Fourier Analysis, they demonstrated that a signal auto-feedback and diffusion act as a low-pass filter to eliminate fluctuations in signal input. The theoretically predicted filter may be a prototypical motif for signal propagation in larger cells.