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"Giving mice a rest: Computer simulations helping biologists."


Mon, 27/07/2009 - 20:00

"Giving mice a rest: Computer simulations helping biologists."

GIVING MICE A REST: Computer simulations helping biologists
Researchers from the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) demonstrate how computer based simulations can be used to predict drug target candidates. 
The classical way to do biology and find targets for drugs rely heavily on experimental work in the bench and on the use of animal models.  This approach has been very successful until now and has resulted in many of the drugs we currently use. 
However, with the recent advances in high throughput data generation (-omics) scientists are finding that the human brain cannot cope and analyze the vast amount of information obtained.  That is the reason why in recent years we have seen the growing importance of Bioinformatics to store the data in a meaningful way and of computer modelling that allow simulation of biological complex systems.  Computer simulations can do million of experiments in the computer and identify proteins which could be interesting targets for drugs, providing information to the researcher that could be used to design new experiments. 
The work, published on Science Signaling, shows an exciting example on the combination of experiments and computer modelling.  The CRG researchers studied a signal transduction pathway that is involved in many human diseases, the epidermal growth factor (EGF) pathway.  Dys-regulation of proteins involved in the pathway can lead to diseases like Cancer, Costello Syndrome, Noonan Syndrome.  Modelling of the pathway allowed the researchers to interpret their experimental data and determine that certain network topology motifs can attenuate the effect of drugs, as well as of mutations, while the absence of certain interactions could result in hypersensibility to mutations or drugs. 
Computational biology is one of the new areas that are growing faster in sciences and Luis Serrano is one of the leaders in this field. Christina Kiel said “The combination of computer simulations and experimental work makes my job really exciting and provides new perspectives and research avenues that my brain will have never thought of”.
Reference work: Christina Kiel and Luis Serrano. "Cell Type-Specific Importance of Ras-c-Raf Complex Association Rate Constants for MAPK Signalling”. Publishing in Science Signaling, July 28 2009, DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000397. 

For more information: Laia Cendrós and Gloria Lligadas, Communication & PR Dept., Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Dr. Aiguader, 88 – Edif. PRBB, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, Tel. +34 93 316 02 37. e.mail