Systems Biology - Introduction

Improving medicine by revealing networks of host-pathogen interactions

The goal of systems biology is to see the big picture and - viewing the biology of infection - to use that wider view to understand the transition from health to disease.

The goal of systems biology is to see the big picture and - viewing the biology of infection - to use that wider view to understand the transition from health to disease.

Rather than rely on a single approach, systems biology assembles and analyzes data and findings from various approaches to biology - everything from genomics to studies of proteins, metabolism and gene expression.

Thus systems biology may try to define the complex network of interactions between pathways, cells, tissues, organs, mucosal surfaces or entire organisms.

IGS scientists are using systems biology to study the transition between healthy and disease states. On one front, they are using a combination of studies - involving genetics, gene expression, proteins and metabolism - to untangle the complex interactions between the microbiome, the host cell or tissue, and the pathogen.

Such research projects are using in vitro approaches, animal models, and human studies to examine the context of infections by primary pathogens such as Chlamydia spp (G. Myers and J. Ravel research) as well as by commensal organisms like Candida albicans (J. Ravel and V. Bruno research).

On another front, metagenomics and transcriptomics are being combined to identify correlations between the microbiome and various disease states that are associated with the gastrointestinal tract (C. Fraser research) and the vaginal mucosa (J. Ravel research).

In other projects, IGS scientists are combining genomic and transcriptomic analyses of several hundred isolates of bacterial pathogens to identify novel vaccine targets and develop rapid and effective diagnostic assays (H. Tettelin, E. Mongodin, D. Rasko, J. Dunning-Hotopp, G. Myers, F. Fricke) as well as investigating variations in the human genome to uncover genes and pathways involved in longevity (S. Devine).

E. coli outbreak in Germany

In other projects, IGS scientists are combining genomic and transcriptomic analyses of several hundred isolates of bacterial pathogens to identify novel vaccine targets and develop rapid and effective diagnostic assays as well as investigating variations in the human genome to uncover genes and pathways involved in longevity.