14/07/2013

    Here is a video which sums up systems biology in the context of the world today:

     

    Systems Biology essentially aims to study the interactions between all types of biological information from DNA, RNA, proteins, metabolites, transcription factors, kinases, cells and organs to understand physiological functions. Some of its methods include datamining large miroarrays datasets and analyzing protein interaction networks to understand how complex organs function and how diseases result from mutated genes. Thus systems biology lends itself well towards the study of neuronal function, brain cognition and spinal cord injury. In fact plenty of research has already been done on brain networks using systems biology - just take a look at this Frontiers in Neuroscience paper and this feature in Nature Reviews.

    To further emphasize the growing importance of systems biology, we have only to look at how "Big Data" is becoming increasingly sought after by other industries and careers, including financial companies and the military. We can even think of its importance in light of the recent Edward Snowden leak about the NSA's secret spy programs, since many of the tools used to analyze networks in systems biology may be employed by the NSA to analyze how people connect/communicate to one another.

    I have recently studied and completed an online course with Coursera on Systems Biology. As a massive open online course (or MOOC) this has been a challenging and refreshing way to learn about a complex, developing area of research. Over the 6 weeks of lectures, taught by a Mount Sinai group under Ravi Iyengar, I have discovered one of key ingredients that has been missing in my research training - systems integration at multiple biological levels. This, dare I say it, is one of the many deficiencies of PhD training programs in basic biomedical research that will need to be reformed in the future (and quickly, considering the upcoming sequestration).

    Network

    Image of a complex insulin–Jak/STAT–TGFb network (Chassey et al., 2008) in Hep C virus