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European Scientists Publish Detailed Plan to 'Propel' Systems Biology

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — A group of European scientists has published a set of recommendations for science funders and policy makers that the group said will “propel Europe to the forefront of systems biology” and help to advance personalized medicine and shorten the drug discovery and development process.
 
Over 110 experts participated in ten workshops to develop what the authors of the report, published by the European Science Foundation, call a “practical guide to achieving major breakthroughs in biomedical systems biology.”
 
The science policy briefing, available here, states that conventional biological approaches cannot unravel the complicated interactions involved in cellular functioning, and, because of that, “drug design often fails.” These authors say that their recommendations “outline the necessary steps of promoting the creation of pivotal biomedical systems biology tools and facilitating their translation into crucial therapeutic advances.”
 
Mathematical modeling, in particular, will be an important part of more focused and successful systems biology research, the group believes. And greater monetary investment and support of systems biology will be essential to achieving their goals.
 
The group describes a number of moves the European Community should take to push systems biology forward.
 
For example, for colorectal cancer, the group recommends initiating systems biology projects focusing on tumor-induced angiogenesis using multiscale mathematical modeling, incorporating biomechanical and fluid-dynamic effects; carrying out studies on well-characterized, highly important cancer types such as colorectal cancer to better understand treatment responses by using models that encompass multiple spatio-temporal scales and data sets; and investing further research effort in colorectal cancer modeling directed towards elucidating the interplay between the biochemical networks involved in regulating normal intestinal tissue renewal and understanding how these networks become disregulated during the early stages of carcinogenesis.
 
In trying to understand the relationship between aging and cancer, the group advises initiating interdisciplinary projects investigating the temporal, accumulative, and integrative aspects of the ageing process that is caused by a gradual increase of molecular and cellular damage; using mathematical models to elucidate the impact of cellular senescence on aging and malignant transformation; and exploiting systems biology approaches to investigate the effect of caloric restriction on ageing and cancer.
 
For inflammatory disease research, the group recommends developing multi-scale computational models of networks that control proliferation, homing, function, and survival of T lymphocytes and other inflammation-relevant cell types to predict the outcome, and create in vitro and in vivo models to unravel the dynamics of cell signaling and organization in inflammation, and how it interacts with cancer development.
 
The paper also details systems biology approaches for diabetes, chronobiology and chronotherapy, and nervous system disorders, and it offers recommendations concerning integrating experimental and theoretical approaches and creating dynamic models of biological processes.

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