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{bio,medical} informatics

Wednesday, March 01, 2000

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HMS Beagle When in doubt, model
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"Some cellular systems can't be studied biologically, as they are inseparable from the cell. Thus, manipulating one alters the entire system. The authors describe an experiment in which computer modeling helped identify glycosome function in parasites called trypanosomes, which cause African sleeping sickness. In the parasites, these membrane compartments perform the first step in glycolysis. The researchers used models to compare the outcome of glycolysis with and without glycosomes. Analysis showed that cells without glycosomes should metabolize glucose at the same rate as cells with glycosomes, challenging the theory that glycosomes increase the rate of metabolism by concentrating glucose-metabolizing enzymes. However, cells without glycosomes built up chemical intermediates of glucose metabolism and did not recover well from glucose deprivation. This study demonstrates the power of computer modeling for investigations in cell biology that cannot yet be addressed through direct experimentation.

Reference: Bakker, B.M., Mensonides, F.I.C., Teusink, B. et al. 2000. Compartmentation protects trypanosomes from the dangerous design of glycolysis. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 97(5):2087-2092."

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Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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