Markus Covert, assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford University had a significant announcement to make this week:
In a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world’s first complete computer model of an organism has been completed, Stanford researchers reported last week in the journal Cell.
A team 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.
By encompassing the entirety of an organism in silico, the paper fulfills a longstanding goal for the field. Not only does the model allow researchers to address questions that aren’t practical to examine otherwise, it represents a stepping-stone toward the use of computer-aided design in bioengineering and medicine.
Science has greatly benefited from the crossover of other disciplines. After the Second World many of the physicists whose research had led to the atomic bomb switched over to biophysics and biochemistry bringing with them the tools that eventually allowed Francis Crick and others to discover the the structure of DNA in 1953. That discovery then set the basis of much of our understanding of biology thereafter.
The advantage of a computerised simulation of a cell is the ability to test billions of variations in a short period of time, dependent only on the imagination of the software designers and the speed of the hardware.
This is one to watch for the future.