Society for Systems Biology & Translational Research
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Systems BiologySystems Biology & Translational Research both are focused towards the needs of the diseased suffered people and for successful implementation of either of the approaches, both has to be intermingled. Systems Biology (SB) is a holistic science that tries to understand the biological systems complexity across the hierarchy of the physiological system. Though systems level understanding is the major goal for biologists; however, biology is being studied with reductionist approach. Such paradox can be refelcted in the comment of the physiologist Albert Szent-Gyorgi:
“My own scientific life was a descent from higher to lower dimensions, led by the desire to understand life. I went from animals to cells, from cells to bacteria, from bacteria to molecules, from molecules to electrons. The story had its irony, for molecules and electrons have no life at all. On my way, life ran out between my fingers. ”With the notion of reductionism, major emphasis is being imparted towards the identification and rectification of a singular factor in a disease process. Undoubtedly, this gives in towards the tremendous success and development of modern medicine. This success is furthen towards the huge activity of genomic science that we are being witnessed at the begining of the 21st century. Such activity have generated a vast amount of molecular data however, does not fulfil the expectations particularly in solving the problems of human chronic diseases in terms of investment that has been made. For decades “experimental laboraties have generated huge amount of new information about chemicals involved in human. But this information does not, on its own, provide answers to the questions of clinical medicine. The sheer complexity of human physiology prevents that each chemical interacts with many others, and each cell type performs multiple functions. The traditional biological approach to overcome this difficulty is in vitro experiments, in which one uses laboratory systems to understand different aspects of, say, the growth of a tumour or the healing of a wound” (Sherratt JA, 2001). In a simplistic form it can be put forward that conventional approach of biology ignored the dynamical aspects which in turn, ignores the complexity that are being associated with the human physiology and diseases. The data generated by omics approach are subjected for the quantitative statements and rely much on the information processing that try to explain the system through pattern and clustering. On the contrary, the signal and systems-oriented perspectives of the SB focuses on functional activity, ie , the dynamics of intra and intercellular processes that determine cell function. This makes SB venture shifts away from genomics and bioinformatics. Hence SB venture also focuses towards the development of a mathematical techniques that give rise to the formal models for life processes. In doing so SB becomes an integrative, synergistic and co-operational approach that combines theoretical modelling and direct experimentation (investigation). Theoretical models provide insights about the experimental observations, and experiments can provide data needed for model creation and can confirm or refute model findings. Hence it also includes the inductive approach of bioinformatics. With its integrative approach, it becomes that no single discipline is ideal to pursue SB. Scientists from biomedical sciences, molecular biology, computer science, control systems engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics and statistics need to cooperate in the endeavor. According to E T Liu, of Genome Institute of Singapore “To me, systems biology seeks to explain biological phenomenon not only a gene-by-gene basis, but through the interaction of all cellular and biochemical components in a cell or an organism”. Though SB is "a hybrid experimental-computational approach" encompasses both experimental and computational aspects, but some people choose to focus on one only. For example, some consider it as "mathematical modeling of biological systems" or "the creation of data-driven computer simulations that explain and predict how the basic components of the cell interact to give rise to the physiology of the cell and eventually the physiology of organs and tissues". On the other hand, some have preferred to emphasize the empirical side of "-omics." D A Lauffenburger of MIT believes that contrary to conventional practices of biology which deals with a single variable in isolation, SB has a multivariable nature and allows a transition seamlessly between discovery and hypothesis science. Lauffenburger mentions "four M's" of SB: measurement, mining, modeling, and manipulation. "Manipulation and measurement are on the experimental side. Mining and modelling are on the computational side," he says. “These four M's are part of an iterative process, beginning with manipulating the system. Once a system is perturbed, it is measured using a high-throughput, multivariate technology. The data are then mined to elucidate hypotheses that, when cast in terms of formal computational models, form the basis for a new manipulation of the system“ (Chemical & Engineering News, American Chemical Society). Systems biologists are not interested in the “mere abstract mathematical understanding” and “mathematical modeling is not the part of the definition of systems biology”. However, the systems perspective appreciates the holistic and composite characteristics of a problem with a more quantitative manner. And this could only be possible with the use of computational and mathematical tools. Thus, “modeling is a mere tool for helping the human mind to appreciate how systems work and malfunctioning systems may be cured”.
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