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Computational Cell Biology - "Killer Application"

Special Session

Andrzej Przekwas
CFD Research Corporation

Biological Cells are spatially organized into membranes, organelles, and cytoskeleton. Cellular physiological function is determined by myriad of biochemical reactions and biophysical processes coordinated in time and space by cellular control mechanisms. Historically cellular biology was mainly an empirical science and compact mathematical modeling theories were rare. Recent progress in computational biophysics and biochemistry as well as wealth of empirical bioinformatics data opened new opportunities in cellular biology. We believe that computational cell biology (CCB) will become next "killer application" in the scientific computing arena.

CCB will have extraordinary impact in many areas but two most prominent are in cellular biodetection, also called cellomics, and in drug discovery and delivery. Living cells are ideal biosensors because they offer miniature size, biological specificity, signal amplification, surface binding capability, self-replication, multivariate detection, and other benefits. Modeling and simulation of cell manipulation, control, sensing, and its biochemical and biophysical interaction with surrounding environment within a biosensor will be a critical enabling technology in cellomics. Computational modeling cell interaction with chemical components such as metabolites, drugs, toxins, viruses, and physical files e.g. light, magnetic and electric fields, fluid shear, mechanical stimulation is still a major challenge and potential opportunity. Over the years standard cell biology laboratory experiments have been established such as patch clamp, fluorescence recovery after photo bleaching, electropoartion, lysis, blotting, and others. We believe that computational techniques, virtual experiments, should be developed to complement experiments in data analysis, planning, hypothesis assessment, add better understanding of basic science.

CCB will also play a major role in medical and pharmaceutical research. Modeling physiological and pathological behavior of cells is beginning to attract attention of multidisciplinary scientific teams. Recent progress in modeling cell cycle, cell metabolism, cell binding and signaling, and chemotaxis, even with great simplifications is greatly encouraging. Better mathematical models, computational algorithms, spatial temporal multiscale simulation methods are needed. Such models have the potential to revolutionize disease detection and diagnosis as well as medical therapies. Without the doubt CCB has the potential to accelerate and ultimately win the battle against cancer. We also believe that better integration of rapidly expanding metabolic engineering with multidimensional cellular biophysics will revolutionize drug discovery, delivery and bio production of novel more potent and safer pharmaceuticals.

Modeling cannot be done in isolation. There is a strong need for close collaboration between mathematicians, physicist, computer scientists, and biologics in partnership with experimental biologists, medical and pharmacological scientists and practitioners. We hope the 2003 Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show will inspire novel ideas and enable new areas of science engineering and medicine.

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