Summary: Driving on Cellular Pathway #66
Luis A. Nunes Amaral
Dept. of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems,
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208 USA
Abstract. The interconnectedness of gene regulation, protein interaction, and metabolic
networks is responsible for the remarkable efficiency and adaptability of biological systems, as
well as the extraordinary challenges facing researchers trying to understand them. The torrents
of new biological data generated daily should lead to overcoming the challenges to
understanding biological processes. However, our understanding of these systems has not grown
proportionally to the amount of data generated. This disparity arises from the fact that the
behavior of a biological system is not a linear superposition of the behaviors of its components.
Higher-level structures within organisms can be maintained precisely because of the complex
network of nonlinear interactions among lower-level components. As a result, scientists
increasingly recognize that in order to advance our ability to understand and purposefully
manipulate biomedical systems, we must take a systems level approach. However, it is not yet
clear what systems level approach is optimal. I contend that we will only be able to make sense
of systems-level information if we can develop methods that enable us to extract the small set of
information that is relevant at the scale of interest.
Keywords: gene regulation, complex network, biomedical systems.