systems biology relationships

Systems Biology

What is Systems Biology?

Seen as the fifth pillar in biomedical research in addition to genetics, biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, systems biology aims to understand biological processes at a level above individual genes and proteins. A major goal is to uncover design principles and emerging properties of complex biological systems, ranging from regulatory circuits that control processes like gene expression or the cell cycle to organism-scale metabolic, protein, and gene networks that drive development, physiology, and disease. Systems biology is different from classical reductionist biology and is often question rather than hypothesis driven. Analogies can be made to cars: while reductionist approaches would study the different components of a car, systems biology would aim not only to understand the car as a whole, but also to gain insight into traffic dynamics. Given the highly interdisciplinary nature of systems biology, including a wide range of experimental, computational and modeling approaches, systems biologists need skills that come from many different fields.

Systems Biology at UMMS

From large-scale network biology to small-scale synthetic biology, and everything in between, UMass Systems Biology has it all. A variety of model systems, including the worm C. elegans, E. coli bacteria, yeast and human cancer cells, are used to gain insight into biology at a systems level. Navigating nimbly between experimentation and computation, the research groups in systems biology are at the forefront of biomedical research. Together with Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology, the Program in Systems Biology offers specific coursework that combines lectures with hands-on computation that is accessible for the experimentalist. Research topics range from chromosome structure and nuclear organization (Dekker), a quantitative understanding of gene expression regulation (Brewster), network approaches to cancer therapeutics (Lee), robustness and fragility in cell biology (Mitchell) and the communication between gene regulatory and metabolic networks (Walhout). Altogether, Systems Biology at UMass Medical School provides an exciting, collaborative foray into the complexity of biological systems.

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