New systems biology center positions UT Southwestern in vanguard of scientific research

DALLAS Feb. 20, 2004 Scientists have spent the past 50 years taking apart biological systems piece by piece. Now the future of biological research depends on putting them back together, says Nobel Laureate Dr. Alfred Gilman.

"One of the most daunting challenges in biology and medicine is to begin to understand how all the 'parts' of cells genes, proteins, and many other molecules work together to create complex living organisms," said Dr. Gilman, chairman of pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Dr. Gilman is heading up a new research center devoted to systems biology research. Scientists in the Cecil H. and Ida Green Comprehensive Center for Molecular, Computational and Systems Biology at UT Southwestern will link basic research on molecules and cells with analysis of how entire biological systems function, both in health and in sickness. The center was made possible by a $12.8 million gift from the Cecil and Ida Green Foundation.

"The time is really right for this kind of focused research effort," said Dr. Gilman.

The emerging field of systems biology focuses on how individual parts of an organism from small-scale molecules and proteins to larger-scale cells and tissues work in concert to produce a functioning or in the case of disease, malfunctioning life form. Even though the research goals are not new, recent advances in technology make tough problems in biology ripe for such a comprehensive and coordinated scientific attack.

In systems biology, experts in scientific disciplines including biology, physics, mathematics and computer science come together to create models of biological systems that consider not only the individual parts but also how they react to each other and to changes in their environment.

Integrating the power of computational science and advanced imaging technologies with basic molecular and cellular research will allow remarkable insights to be gained about how

Contact: Amanda Siegfried
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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