Following is a description of two recently published research papers recommended by a scientist involved in integrated biology. The scientist, Gary Keil, technology analyst for global sciences and information at AstraZeneca, also wrote the review.
For a complete list of this month's recommended papers, read Genome Technology, a GenomeWeb News publication.
Biological robustness. Hiroaki Kitano. Nature Rev. Genetics. 2004; 5: 826-837.
Robustness of cellular functions. Jörg Stelling, Uwe Sauer, Zoltan Szallasi, Francis J. Doyle, II and John Doyle. Cell. 2004; 118: 675-685.
The reviews by Kitano and Stelling, et. al., elegantly summarize very large sets of data and theory testing around biological robustness: the property that allows a system to remain unchanged in the face of external and internal perturbations. That cellular systems can even begin to approach such a state, let alone maintain it for extended periods of time, is quite remarkable, especially when the system operates with "unreliable components" in highly "unpredictable environments" (Kitano). The ability to keep the system as it is designed is what underlies the maintenance of health; that is, if the system is not flawed from the outset. Similar attempts at robustness would be expected from the get-go in flawed systems (i.e., somatic mutations in hereditary diseases) or when the system acquires multiple changes over time (random mutations). To make the system even more remarkable in its operation is that the same component parts involved in robustness are also those used to enable the system to evolve over time.
The impact of these principles on health maintenance, disease progression, drug discovery, and the development of systems biology modeling cannot be overstated. Understanding how these principles come together within a dynamic system adds an additional layer of complexity that will need to be incorporated into any model.
The views expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Genome Technology or GenomeWeb News.