Washington: Scientists claim to have developed the world’s first complete computer model of an organism, which can use computer-aided design for better diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
A team of Stanford researchers , including an Indian, used data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest free-living bacterium.
The model represents a stepping-stone toward the use of computer-aided design in bioengineering and medicine, according to the Journal ‘Cell’ .
“This achievement demonstrates a transforming approach to answering questions about fundamental biological processes,” said James M Anderson, director National Institutes of Health Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives . “Comprehensive computer models of entire cells have the potential to advance our understanding of cellular function and, ultimately, to inform new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of disease,” he said.
Biology over the past two decades has been marked by the rise of high-throughout studies producing enormous troves of cellular information. A lack of experimental data is no longer the primary limiting factor for researchers . Instead, it’s how to make sense of what they already know. “Many of the issues we’re interested in aren’t single-gene problems,” said Covert, adding “they’re the complex result of hundreds or thousands of genes interacting” . “This situation has resulted in a yawning gap between information and understanding that can only be addressed by “bringing all of that data into one place and seeing how it fits together” , said Stanford bioengineering graduate student and co-first author Jayodita Sanghvi.
Mycoplasma genitalium is a humble parasitic bacterium known mainly for showing up uninvited in human urogenital and respiratory tracts. The pathogen also has the distinction of containing the smallest genome of any free-living organism – only 525 genes, as opposed to the 4,288 of E coli, a more traditional laboratory bacterium. The model will help to demonstrate a number approaches , including detailed investigations of DNA-binding protein dynamics and identification of new gene functions.