Upgraded systems biology?

Is systems biology 2.0 just around the corner? Researchers from Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK and L’école Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland have outlined a new technique in that could upgrade and improve the way we understand biological systems.

Systems biologists examine the interaction of the different components of a cell, such as its genes, proteins and the molecular reactions, with the view to create a model of the whole cell in silico. Existing techniques use mathematical simulations to do this, by representing each process by a series of equations that are then solved to make predictions about the way the cell is acting.

Dr Jasmin Fisher in the UK and Professor Tom Henzinger in Switzerland, however, want to go one step further. Rather than expressing these processes as equations, the team want to represent them as abstract operations, like those used to create all executable files on a computer. The team proposes a number of techniques to do this, including Boolean networks, Petri nets and interacting state machines.

According to the researchers, this new method, dubbed ‘executable biology’ could solve non-linear and non-deterministic problems that would be impossible using mathematics. The models could also run directly on the operating system, whereas the mathematical models run through a third piece of software. This would be more efficient, allowing larger, more complicated models, to be produced.

Twitter icon
Google icon icon
Digg icon
LinkedIn icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon

For functionality and security for externalised research, software providers have turned to the cloud, writes Sophia Ktori


Robert Roe looks at the latest simulation techniques used in the design of industrial and commercial vehicles


Robert Roe investigates the growth in cloud technology which is being driven by scientific, engineering and HPC workflows through application specific hardware


Robert Roe learns that the NASA advanced supercomputing division (NAS) is optimising energy efficiency and water usage to maximise the facility’s potential to deliver computing services to its user community


Robert Roe investigates the use of technologies in HPC that could help shape the design of future supercomputers