■ Computer modelling of biological processes can be a useful aid to experimental research.
Computer models can be used to predict behaviors and find errors that cannot be found with
experimental methods alone. While in vitro approaches to studying biological process-es are essential,
and can provide valuable kinetic data, they are unfortunately limited to analyzing only a small subset
of a given pathway at any one time.
In contrast, mathemat-ical models of biological processes can allow scientists to monitor and visualize
the inter-actions of many molecular species simultaneously, and can help scientists understand the effects
of a particular biological entity in a complex system.
■ Cancer is a complex family of diseases, and the carcinogenesis-the turning of a normal cell
into a cancer cell-is a complex, multistep process. Despite a huge variety in age of onset, rate of growth,
state of cellular differentiation, diagnostic detectability, invasive-ness, metastatic potential,
response to treatment, and prognosis, cancer may represent a relatively small number of diseases
caused by similar molecular defects in cell function and resulting from similar alterations to cell's genes.
The altered gene expression occurs through a number of mechanisms, including direct insults to DNA
(such as gene mutations, translocations, or amplification) and abnormal gene transcription and translation.
Thus, a key to understanding and seeking a possible cure for cancer is to understand these mech-anisms and
show how they can alter cellular function in a way that leads to cancer. In many cases, the causes of cancer
are not clearly defined, but both external factors (e.g., environmental chemicals and radiation) and
internal ones (e.g., immune system defects and genetic predisposition) play a role.
■ Once a small tumor is formed by carcinogenesis, it remains dormant due to lacking
its own network of blood vessel to supply oxygen and nutrients. The critical events that trigger
the conversion of a dormant tumor into a more rapidly growing invasive neoplasm is associated
with the vascularization of tumors. The vascularized tumor begins to grow more rapidly.
It compresses surrounding tissue, invades through basement membranes, and metastasizes.
The mechanism for invasion of tumor cells through tissue barriers and into blood are not well understood,
but they appear to involve both mechanical and enzymatic process.
■ A variety of computational framework for modeling cell genetic or biochemical process have been developed.
There are intended to be a tool for experimentalists (as well as theorists) to test their hypotheses and models.
Models are constructed from genetic, bio-chemical, and other biophysical data mapped to appropriate subcellular domains
in image obtained from a microscope. Chemical kinetics, membrane fluxes, and diffusion are thus coupled
and the resultant reaction-diffusion equations are solved numerically within the given one-, two-, or three-dimensional domains.
The results are mapped back to experim-ental images and can be analyzed by applying the arsenal of image processing tools
that is familiar to a cell biologist. In the context of similar modelling framework, the carcinogene-sis, invasion,
and metastasis can be simulated by computer modelling. A successful simula-tion entails a appropriate simulation tool,
e.g., computer simulation software, as well as appropriate biological data both quality and quantity wise.
The lack of enough biological data hinders the construction of good computer simulation in cancer biology.
This page is last updated: May. 15, 2012
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Carcinogenesis and Metastasis Systems Biology LAB
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