Systems biology uses cutting-edge technologies to gather as much information as possible about a biological system and then uses that information to build mathematical and graphical models that account for the behavior of the system. In the case of medicine, systems biology helps define what goes wrong when a biological system becomes diseased and gives us insights on how to treat or prevent disease.

The human brain and nervous system are extremely complex systems. When something goes wrong in the brain or nervous system it is typically difficult (if not impossible) to cure. Most families will at some point encounter the devastating effects of such neuropathologies as glioblastoma multiforme, low-grade glioma, Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, or Alzheimer’s. Cancers of the brain are particularly malignant and hard to treat. Even with recent medical advances, the progression of brain tumors is nearly always fatal.

Systems biology provides the systems-level thinking and interdisciplinary approach that is required to tackle the complex nature of neuropathologies.

The scientists at ISB aim to thoroughly understand the causes and effects of neuropathologies at the molecular level through such disparate approaches as identifying molecular fingerprints of the diseases, identifying screening diagnostics for major diseases, building integrated regulatory-metabolic models for human cells, and writing software that efficiently and accurately defines relationships between genetics and disease outcomes. At a higher level, brain-related research at ISB helps support the creation of P4 Medicine for the brain ― medicine that is predictive, preventive, personalized, and participatory.

ISB recognizes that no single institution can solve the challenges related to neuropathology. To this end, active collaboration is encouraged, whether internally between different lab groups at ISB, or externally with a wide range of organizations, including the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) consortium, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-San Diego, the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the National Institute of Mental Health, Microsoft, and others.

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