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Physical Laws Shape Biology

时间:2013-02-09 02:27:28  来源:  作者:

Physical Laws Shape Biology
In the Perspective "A dynamical-systems view of stem cell biology" (12 October 2012, p. 215), C. Furusawa and K. Kaneko discuss the relevance of dynamic systems biology approaches and the concept of "attractors" to understand cell differentiation and proliferation. We share their excitement in using computational models that apply physical laws to cell fate decision.

Because there are still naysayers who question whether simple physical laws operate in living systems, we want to emphasize the existence of numerous examples in which the laws of physics have been used to provide mechanistic insights on complex behaviors of living organisms. In the past two decades, numerous works in biology have integrated computational models with experimental verifications. Leibler and colleagues showed, using a simple mass-action model, that bacterial chemotaxis is highly robust to biochemical parameter variations (1, 2). Complex pattern formation in seashells and zebrafish can be reproduced by Alan Turing's simple reaction-diffusion model (3). For immune-related Toll-like receptor signaling, a linear response model utilizing the physical law of mass conservation was sufficient to show the enhancement of an alternative TRIF-dependent pathway in MyD88 mutant murine macrophages (4, 5). Similar biological flux redistribution in gain-of-function mutation was also observed for the energy metabolic pathways in Escherichia coli (6).


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Laws of physics come to life. Patterns in zebrafish can be reproduced by Alan Turing's reaction-diffusion model.

CREDIT: WIKIMEDIA COMMONSWith further integration of the latest experimental innovations, such as in vivo tracking of individual molecules in single cells, with computational models applying physical laws at different scales (quantum or classical), the future looks optimistic for a leap in understanding the origins of biological decisions. We hope schools and colleges will inspire students to learn multidisciplinary concepts.

Kumar Selvarajoo*, Masaru Tomita
Institute for Advanced Biosciences and Systems Biology Program, Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University, Japan.
↵*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: kumar@ttck.keio.ac.jp
 

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