Systems Biology seeks to explain the complexity of life by revealing the basic strategies used by organisms to carry out diverse, demanding tasks in an uncertain world. Many Systems Biological approaches focus on the dynamic nature of living systems, but cells, tissues, and organisms don't just vary in time, they vary in space. Patterns must be specified, shapes and sizes must be controlled, and transport of signals and cargoes from one location to another must be regulated. For the last 4-1/2 years, the Center for Complex Biological Systems at the University of California, Irvine has operated as a National Center for Systems Biology, with a focus on Spatial Dynamics, the study of spatial phenomena and spatial design principles in biology. Taking advantage of collective strength in modeling, imaging and experimental methods, teams of molecular and cellular biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists and engineers have worked together to tackle a variety of spatial problems, from the subcellular to the organ level. During the next five years, the center proposes to extend this work with new research in five theme areas: pattern formation;tissue growth control;spatial control of intracellular signaling;development of mathematical and computational tools;and developmental of optical tools for spatial dynamics and nano-imaging. In addition, the center will maintain and expand upon an array of educational and outreach activities developed during the current funding period, including graduate, undergraduate and high school training activities;a short course for professionals in Systems Biology;faculty recruiting;symposia, workshops, regional meetings, retreats, and activities aimed at promoting workforce diversity.
Spatially dynamic processes are crucial to development, regeneration, wound healing, and gene expression. Understanding such processes will provide deep insights into diverse pathological processes ranging from birth defects, to cancer, to aging. Training and outreach in Systems Biology will help prepare the scientific workforce to tackle the complex, multi-disciplinary challenges of investigating biological spatial dynamics.
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