Discovering design principles in biological networks

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About Discovering design principles in biological networks


|free text=}} We describe biological systems as networks of interacting molecules. And we want to find how particular network features (e.g. certain network motifs) determine how such a network can function as a whole; in other words, we are searching for design principles. What is a design principle? Well examples are the fact that a steering wheel of an automobile is circular, that bird wings are flat, wide and long, that tumors are (often) spherical, and that lungs are extensively invaginated.

Our approach is systems biology (the new science that aims to understand how biological function, absent from macromolecules in isolation, arises when those molecules interact). Our main tool is kinetic modeling based on true experimental results, mostly from the literature (text mining) and occasionally out of our own laboratory. We have discovered how bread yeast is designed to prevent it from exploding, how cells wish to increase their surface to volume ratio, and why organisms are not obsessed with efficiency but rather make the most of Life (familiar?). Now our object is Nuclear Receptor signaling network.

If you want to learn what nuclear receptors are (the most important molecules that receive the information of our hormones, incliding the sex hormones), what they do (signal transfer often to the DNA), and how they ‘do it’ (they shuttle like ltitel ferry boats through the cell), you are highly welcome to join our interdisciplinary study. If you have a particular interest in other biological systems, you are welcome as well. We do a lot and with your help, we could do a lot more.

You (student of biology, bioinformatics, engineering, medical biology, systems biology, mathematics…) will receive training in kinetic modeling and an understanding of systems biological approach. And hopefully you will contribute to the discovery of new design principles in biological networks, i.e. you will discover a bit more how Life works.