Bio Networks and Complex Systems – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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Bio-Networks

Bio Networks and Complex Systems

It looks like chaos and coincidences, but by developing dynamic computer models researchers can solve the structure of the connecting links; they have found out that all the many different kinds of networks have common properties of the fundamental structure – from worldwide communication networks all the way down to the network of signal matter of the cells.

Models of turbulence of fluids are also created by the researchers. When a fluid passes through a narrow passage turbulence occur creating whirls, and when liquid is warmed up bobbles are created. It looks chaotic, coincidental and disorganised but it proves to be an organised confusion and using mathematical models the researchers can figure out the order of the chaos. This kind of insight into the dynamics of fluid and turbulence is extremely important for weather forecasting for instance. The chaos theories can even provide information about the share prices in the financial markets.

The networks of life is an appropriate name for the research area of biophysics that is in rapid development. The molecular biology explores the mechanisms of life, the interaction between proteins and genes at cellular level, and an enormous amount of information is gathered. This is where the physicists come into the picture with their skills at working out mathematical models for the biochemical networks of the cells. The models give a good idea of what goes on and how the chemical reactions influence new chemical reactions in the eternal dance of chemical reactions that create the living cell.

Cells need a multitude of nourishment for its life processes, and in the cell there is a complex biochemical network of proteins that send signals forwards and backwards to each other. The research group has focused their investigation on three proteins that are extremely important for maintaining healthy cells. The proteins are part of a network of signal matter that among other things has to make sure that a cell whose genetic matter has become damaged ‘commits suicide’ to stop the sick cells reproducing in the body.

The hidden memory of cells can be revived with the result that a property that was not there before all of a sudden is present. The researchers have examined the mechanisms behind the dormant cell memory and discovered that the answer lies in the surroundings of the DNA string. The DNA string twists around some protein complexes that are immensely important because they via interaction are involved in determining whether the piece of the DNA string that they are touching becomes active or passive.

Shock-changes of the surroundings, such as acute lack of life necessities, can stress a live system, and how does ‘the system’ react to the changes and the new situation? The researchers have investigated this by studying the reactions of bacteria to acute lack of the life giving nutrient – iron. To gain insight into how bacteria react to shock changes in the surroundings gives us a basic knowledge of what goes on in our own cells and our own bodies.

Center for Models of Life >>