Computational Modelling Group

Seminar  24th October 2011 5 p.m.  B85/2207

A network medicine approach to complex diseases

Patrick Aloy
Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Barcelona

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Bioinformatics, Biomedical, Biomolecular Organisation, Complex Systems, Graph Theory, Structural biology, Systems biology
Richard Edwards

Patrick Aloy, ICREA Research Professor; Structural Bioinformatics and Network Biology


Modern molecular and cell biology no longer focus only on single macromolecules but now look into pathways, complexes or even entire organisms. The many genome-sequencing projects have provided a near complete list of the components present in an organism, and post-genomic projects have aimed to catalogue the relationships between them.

The emerging field of systems biology is now centered mainly on unravelling these relationships. For example, an understanding of metabolic and signalling pathways or gene-regulatory networks relies on detailed knowledge of protein–metabolite, protein–protein and protein–nucleic-acid interactions. However, a full understanding of how molecules interact can be attained only from three-dimensional (3D) structures, as these provide crucial atomic details about binding. These details allow a more rational design of experiments to disrupt an interaction and therefore to perturb any system in which the interaction is involved.

This talk will explore some of the ways that Systems approaches can be applied to complex diseases, exploiting the observed associations between protein network connectivity and disease. Findings suggest that both protein-protein interactions and the networks themselves could emerge as a new class of targetable entities, boosting the quest for novel therapeutic strategies in terms of both drug design and personalised medicine.

Research Interests

Our main scientific interests lie in the field of structural bioinformatics, in particular, the use of high-resolution 3D structures to reveal the molecular bases of how macromolecular complexes and cell networks operate. Structural information for interacting cellular components will improve our understanding of the whole-cell framework at atomic level, thereby contributing to biological systems modelling.