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Math: Explaining Our Body Structure and Diseases

The incredible complexity of how biological systems interact to create tissue from the information contained in genes boggles the mind. It significantly drives the work of biomedical scientists around the world. Now, mathematicians have introduced a new way of thinking about these concepts that may help set the stage for better understanding of our bodies and other living things.

Using advanced mathematics, researchers hope to create models of biological systems that can inform our understanding of normal development and disease.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a mathematician from the University of Michigan Medical School and University of California, Berkeley has introduced a new framework. This will assist our understanding of how genetic information and interactions between cells give rise to the actual function of a particular type of tissue.

 It could also help with understanding of how diseases such as cancer can arise when things don't go as planned. Berkeley, along with U M Medical School Assistant Professor of Computational Medicine, Indira Rajapakse, has worked on the concept for several years.

"All the time, this process is happening in our bodies, as cells are dying and arising, and yet they keep the function of the tissues going," says Rajapakse. "We need to use beautiful mathematics and beautiful biology together to understand the beauty of a tissue."

As a result of their dedicated study, Rajapakse and Berkeley now have funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to keep exploring the issue of emergence of function.



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