Source: Fierce Biotech, Standford University, Venter Institute
-NOTE: “Computational biology involves the development and application of data-analytical and theoretical methods, mathematical modeling and computational simulation techniques to the study of biological, behavioral, and social systems. The field is broadly defined and includes foundations in computer science, applied mathematics, statistics, biochemistry, chemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, genetics, ecology, evolution, anatomy, neuroscience, and visualization.”
-IMPLICATIONS: This may look small, but its HUGE!! In silico computer modeling is one area of biotech that will replace animal testing by providing in silico, non-animal solutions. In silico means by way of silicon, or software. In a nutshell, this is done by entering data from 1,000s of research papers or other proven findings on something then using very precise high-tech software/images to fully express the findings. Once the information is all gathered into one program, tests and whole research projects can be done in silico instead of in vivo! This means drug/toxicity tests can be run with this software, showing results in maybe hours…with no animal torture. We have in silico solutions NOW for parts of organs, systems and research like brain mapping that MANY researchers can use instead of animals, but they choose to continue brutalizing animals instead, like at the University of Florida.
Computational biology has taken another big leap. The J. Craig Venter Institute and Stanford University have pieced together the first software model of an entire organism, using (1.) massive amounts of data and computing power to (2.)simulate life processes of the tiny being. Researchers say the work will yield new insights into basic cellular principles (3.) and vastly speed up the scientific process. (Excellent computational biology blog) Right now there are 1000s of non-animal alternatives using separate parts of an organism/human or system that would replace animal experimentation if vivisectors chose to use them.
And the group foresees the construction of digital models of more complex organisms as technology and computing infrastructure allow. By encompassing the entirety of an organism in silico, the paper fulfills a longstanding goal for the field. Not only does the model allow researchers to address questions that aren’t practical to examine otherwise, it represents a stepping-stone toward the use of computer-aided design in bioengineering and medicine.
With detailed computer models of creatures, scientists have the chance to view cellular and molecular functions unlike what can be seen under a microscope or other experiments involving animals and humans, according to researchers. “Comprehensive computer models of entire cells have the potential to advance our understanding of cellular function and, ultimately, to inform new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of disease,” James Anderson, director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement.
Leave it to J. Craig Venter, the genomics and synthetic biology pioneer, to find ways to pull off huge feats in life sciences. His group and Stanford researchers decided to start small with their first computer model organism, which is a sexually transmitted parasite that hangs out around the genitals and in the respiratory system. The major undertaking was detailed in the journal Cell. Yet the computer-simulated version of the 525-gene creature–called Mycoplasma genitalium–runs on 128 computers, The New York Times reported, and larger and more complex organisms would gobble up many times more computing power.
The complete organism model follows many previous computer-simulated models of individual processes such as metabolism in living organisms, including humans. A great thing about the complete organism models is the ability to look at how many genes and processes in living things interact, as many researchers are warming up to the idea that integrating massive amounts and different types of biological could yield breakthroughs in treating complicated illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
“You read in the paper just about every week, ‘Cancer gene discovered’ or ‘Alzheimer gene discovered,’” said the leader of the new research, Markus W. Covert, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Stanford, as quoted by the Times. “A lot of the public wonders, ‘Why haven’t we cured all these things?’ The answer, of course, is that cancer is not a one-gene problem; it’s a many-thousands-of-factors problem.”
Which, of course, is why diseases should be researched using faster more accurate in silico non-animal alternatives instead of torturing innocent sentient beings.