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Can math predict our growth and diseases? How do our genes give rise to proteins, proteins to cells, and cells to tissues and organs? What makes a cluster of cells become a liver, or a muscle? The incredible complexity of how these biological systems interact boggles the mind — and drives the work of biomedical scientists around the world. Now a mathematician and biologist are formalizing a way of thinking about these concepts that may help us understand our bodies successes and failures, and those incidents in other living things. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS, the pair from the University of Michigan (UM) Medical School and University of California, Berkeley introduce a framework for using math to understand how genetic information along with the interactions between cells, can give rise to a particular type of tissue. They note it's a highly idealized plan — and cannot that takes into account every detail of this process, called 'emergence of function'. But, by making a simplified mathematical model, they hope to create a tool scientists find useful in understanding what is expected to happen over time in living tissue. Indika Rajapakse PhD, UM Medical School assistant professor of computational medicine, and Stephen Smale PhD, Berkeley professor emeritus, have worked independently on these concepts for several years. They draw on the work of Alan Turing, the pioneering British mathematician. Turing is famous for creating a predefined set of rules to determine a result — the result being breaking secret coded war plans — from a set of variables Nazi code writers were changing daily. The "Turing machine" is the computer algorithm which helped end WWII.
Rajapakse's team of biologists and engineers capture human genome dynamics in three dimensions using biochemistry together with high resolution imaging. Stephen Smale PhD, is considered a pioneer of modeling dynamical systems that change over time and in space. He won the Fields Medal in 1966 — the highest prize in mathematics.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA now funds Rajapakse's research exploring the emergence of function. Rajapakse will focuse on cancer and cell reprogramming, collaborating with fellow members of the UM Translational Oncology Program and Thomas Ried MD, at the National Cancer Institute. Their goal is to use mathematics to explain the latest results of basic cancer research. The 19th International Conference on Mathematical and Computational Biology is being held October 30  31, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. Significance Abstract Key words: diffusion emergence genome dynamics monotonicity tissue dynamics Reference: PNAS, February 14, 2017 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1621145114 
Mar 7, 2017 Fetal Timeline Maternal Timeline News News Archive Using advanced mathematics, researchers hope to create models of biological systems
