Although biologists already had an intuitive idea of how the limit or border between these compartments was generated, there had been no systematic study taking into account all the relevant elements. Therefore, and with the backing of a group from the CeQRT of the PCB, led by Javier Buceta, they decided to turn to mathematical modelling as a way of understanding better the internal mechanisms which regulated this process. In this way they identified certain interactions in the signalling pathways that brought to light a number of contradictions and showed that a key step was missing in their model. As Miln explains: Thanks to this computer simulation we have found a new genetic function that ensures the stability of the system and has enabled us to test its robustness. This study shows that modelling is a highly useful tool for describing in silico new properties of a biological system and being able to corroborate them subsequently in vivo.
In this regard, Buceta, who leads a group dedicated to modelling biological processes (the SiMBioSys) in the CeRQT, explains that the advantage of these modelling techniques is that they can simulate genetic and cell interactions as a set of mathematical equations and, therefore, to determine the feasibility of a biological mechanism. In order to study the stability of the system they conducted around 45,000 different in silico experiments, introducing variations in twenty parameters. The results have enabled them to identify the most important system parameters and showed that the biological mechanism maintained its functionality in 91% of the cases analyzed. According to Miln and Buceta this study confirms the hypothesis that if this gene network has been maintained across evolution in both vertebrates and insects, it is precisely because it is highly stable and robust.