Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

Corbis For 50 years, biologists have focused on reducing life to its constituent parts, first focusing on the cell, then working their way down to the genome itself. However, such achievements created a new challenge--making sense of the huge amounts of data produced. As professor Denis Noble, Oxford University, puts it: "It took Humpty Dumpty apart but left the challenge of putting him back together again." Systems biology attempts to reconstruct Humpty Dumpty as a series of overlapping math

Philip Hunter
Feb 23, 2003
Corbis

For 50 years, biologists have focused on reducing life to its constituent parts, first focusing on the cell, then working their way down to the genome itself. However, such achievements created a new challenge--making sense of the huge amounts of data produced. As professor Denis Noble, Oxford University, puts it: "It took Humpty Dumpty apart but left the challenge of putting him back together again."

Systems biology attempts to reconstruct Humpty Dumpty as a series of overlapping mathematical models. It exploits all the theoretical and experimental advances of the various genome projects, allying them to computational, mathematical and engineering disciplines in an attempt to create predictive models of cells, organs, biochemical processes, and complete organisms. It has the potential to unravel how complex biochemical systems, from cells to organisms, really work, and to take a leap forward in preventing and treating disease. "Diseases ... are often a fault of...

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