Dr. Adam Arkin, director of the Physical Biosciences Division of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a leading computational biologist, is the corresponding author of an essay in the March 18, 2011 issue of Cell which describes in detail key technologies and insights that are advancing systems biology research. The paper is titled “Network News: Innovations in 21st Century Systems Biology.” Co-authoring the article is Dr. David Schaffer, a chemical engineer with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division. Both Drs. Arkin and Schaffer also hold appointments with the University of California (UC) Berkeley. The Cell issue is devoted to reviews of systems biology. “System biology aims to understand how individual elements of the cell generate behaviors that allow survival in changeable environments, and collective cellular organization into structured communities,” Dr. Arkin says. “Ultimately, these cellular networks assemble into larger population networks to form large-scale ecologies and thinking machines, such as humans.” In their essay, Drs. Arkin and Schaffer argue that the ideas behind systems biology originated more than a century ago and that the field should be viewed as “a mature synthesis of thought about the implications of biological structure and its dynamic organization.” Research into the evolution, architecture, and function of cells and cellular networks in combination with ever expanding computational power has led to predictive genome-scale regulatory and metabolic models of organisms. Today systems biology is ready to “bridge the gap between correlative analysis and mechanistic insights” that can transform biology from a descriptive science to an engineering science.
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