Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Science at cusp of 'transformational' grasp of life via cell modeling, researchers say

10.10.2016

A paper recently published in the Journal of Molecular Biology shows how advances in molecular biology and computer science around the world soon may lead to a three-dimensional computer model of a cell, the fundamental unit of life.

According to the authors, the development could herald a new era for biological research, medical science, and human and animal health.


The image from co-author Arthur Olson's lab at the Scripps Research Institute shows a preliminary model of mycoplasma mycoides. Modeling by Ludovic Autin and David Goodsell, rendering by Adam Gardner.

Credit: The Scripps Research Institute

"Cells are the foundation of life," said Ilya Vakser, professor of computational biology and molecular biosciences and director of the Center for Computational Biology at the University of Kansas, one of the paper's co-authors.

"Recently, there has been tremendous progress in biomolecular modeling and advances at understanding life at the molecular level. Now, the focus is shifting to larger systems -- up to the level of the entire cell. We're trying to capture this emerging milestone development in computational structural biology, which is the tectonic shift from modeling individual biomolecular processes to modeling the entire cell."

The study, titled "Challenges in structural approaches to cell modeling," surveys a range of methodologies joining the march toward a simulated whole 3-D cell, including the studies of biological networks, automated construction of 3-D cell models with experimental data, modeling of protein complexes, prediction of protein interactions, thermodynamic and kinetic effects of crowding cellular membrane modeling, and modeling of chromosomes.

"A lot of techniques that are required for this are already available -- it's just a matter of putting them all together in a coherent strategy to address this problem," Vakser said. "It's hard because we're just beginning to understand the principal mechanisms of life at the molecular level -- it looks extremely complicated but doable, so we're moving very fast -- not only in our ability to understand how it works at the molecular level but to model it."

While most of these techniques are being developed separately, the authors say that considered together they represent a push forward that could provide a better basic "understanding of life at the molecular level and lead to important applications to biology and medicine."

"There are two major benefits," Vakser said. "One is our fundamental understanding of how a cell works. You can't claim you understand a phenomenon if you can't model it. So this gives us insight into basic fundamentals of life at the scale of an entire cell. On the practical side, it will give us an improved grasp of the underlying mechanisms of diseases and also the ability to understand mechanisms of drug action, which will be a tremendous boost to our efforts at drug design. It will help us create better drug candidates, which will potentially shorten the path to new drugs."

As an example, the KU researcher said a working 3-D molecular cell model could help to replace or augment phases of time-consuming and expensive drug development protocols required today to bring drug therapies from the scientist's bench to the marketplace.

Vakser said that facets of the research that could lead to a computer-simulated cell are at different levels of refinement.

"We've made advances in our ability to model protein interactions," he said. "The challenge is to put it in context of the cell, which is a densely populated milieu of different proteins and other biomolecular structures. To make the transition from a dilute solution to realistic environment encountered in the cell is probably the greatest challenge we're facing right now."

While modeling more complex human cells might be on the agenda soon, Vakser said that for the time being, research efforts will focus on modeling simple single-celled organisms.

"We go for the simplest cell possible. There are small prokaryotic cells, which involve minimalistic set of elements that are much simpler than the bigger and more complicated cells in mammals, including humans," he said. "We're trying to cut our teeth on the smallest possible cellular organisms first, then will extrapolate into more complicated cells."

###

Along with Vakser, the paper's authors are Wonpil Im of Lehigh University, Jie Liang of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Arthur Olson of The Scripps Research Institute and Huan-Xiang Zhou of Florida State University.

Media Contact

Brendan M Lynch
brendan@ku.edu
785-864-8855

 @KUNews

http://www.news.ku.edu 

Brendan M Lynch | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>