In Silico Multicellular Biology and Genomics

Eric Werner

Talk given at the Beyond Genome -Beyond Genome Conference 2002, in San Diego, June 2002.


There have been a number of attempts to simulate living cells in software (e-cell, T7, Physiome). There have also been efforts to simulate chemical interactions in organs, as well as simulations of neural nets. Others have simulated cellular interactions based on physical relationships such as adhesion. However, none of those attempts simulate the actual dynamic development of multicellular structures such as tissue and organs. We report on results achieved by researchers at Cellnomica, Inc., working on the simulation of multicellular development as well as other multicellular processes such cell signaling and chemical gradients.

More specifically, we show that new insights can be gained into the nature, organization and function of genomes when looked at from the perspective of the role of genomes in multicellular development of tissue and organs. Many diseases such as cancer are inherently multicellular phenomena. Our research shows that perhaps the best way to understand such diseases is by way of simulations that take into account not just genes or the interactions of genes, but the entire process of how networks of genes function together in cells to engender the disease phenotype. The cure for diseases such as cancer can be more probable with the kind of understanding and control that multicellular simulation can give. Other areas that may gain from the simulation of multicellular genome guided processes are cloning, stem cell research, tissue engineering, drug delivery modeling, and nanotechnology, to name a few.