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Reported by: Dr. Venkat S. Karra, Ph.D.

“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.” Not only does the model allow researchers to address questions that aren’t practical to examine otherwise, it represents a stepping-stone towards its use  in bioengineering and medicine.

A team led by Stanford bioengineering Professor Markus Covert used data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium. Mycoplasma genitalium is a humble parasitic bacterium, known mainly for showing up uninvited in human urogenital and respiratory tracts. But 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.

“This is potentially the new Human Genome Project,” Karr said who is a co-first author and Stanford biophysics graduate student. “It’s to understand biology generally.”

“It’s going to take a really large community effort to get close to a human model.”

This is a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world’s first complete computer model of an organism. “This achievement demonstrates a transforming approach to answering questions about fundamental biological processes,” said James M. Anderson, director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives.

Study results were published by Stanford researchers in the journal Cell.

The research was partially funded by an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award from the National Institute of Health Common Fund.

Source:

http://www.dddmag.com/news/2012/07/first-complete-computer-model-bacteria?et_cid=2783229&et_rid=45527476&linkid=http%3a%2f%2fwww.dddmag.com%2fnews%2f2012%2f07%2ffirst-complete-computer-model-bacteria

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