Systems Biology

BeckmanUCIA visualization of the human interactome, the set of protein-protein interactions that occur in human cells, an essential systems biology resource. (Credit: Andrew Garrow via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

One of the great mysteries of systems biology, a systematic approach to understanding how all the parts of an organism interact, is how living systems, from the brain on down to communities of many different types of microbes (called microbiomes) communicate and regulate themselves. By cracking these codes, we could learn to modify their behavior to cure disease and improve our environment. We have already begun to take small steps in that direction. Over the past decade, for example, researchers have learned to implant electrodes in the brain to measure how dozens of neurons send electrical signals to one another. By shrinking the features of these electrodes to nanoscale size, scientists how to sample tens of thousands and perhaps even millions of neurons. This would not only expand our understanding of the brain dramatically, but also reduce the likelihood of epileptic seizures and give paraplegics the ability to manipulate robotic limbs and gain more control over their environment. Similar nanoscale systems might one day provide information on the interaction of one-celled organisms within microbiomes, enabling us to grow crops without fertilizer or pesticide, or to create healthier environments within our homes and offices.

Uniting Diverse Sciences to Tackle the Microbiome

Sep 20, 2016
Dental plaque microbiome

The Kavli Microbiome Ideas Challenge will provide $1 million in grants for innovative tools to investigate how microbes live in complex communities. Three scientists - Tim Donohue, Julie Biteen and Terry Hwa - discuss why it matters.

Spotlight Live: A Microbial Manifesto (Transcript)

Feb 25, 2016
Diatoms

In this live webcast, three of the scientists behind The Unified Microbiome Initiative proposal—Janet Jansson, Rob Knight and Jeff Miller—discuss how to unlock the power of the microbial communities that shape our world and influence our health.

Spotlight Live: A Microbial Manifesto

Jan 11, 2016
Microbes

A live webcast on the Unified Microbiome Initiative, in which Janet Jansson, Rob Knight and Jeffrey Miller discuss the potential of nature's microbiomes and how we can tap into it.

Why It's Time to Map the Microbiome

Nov 23, 2015
Soil Bacterium

The Unified Microbiome Initiative proposes to unlock the power of the microbial communities that shape our world and influence our health. Janet Jansson, Rob Knight and Jeff Miller talk about why it's urgent.

Spotlight Live: Learning from Earth’s Smallest Ecosystems

Mar 27, 2015

Two leaders in the field discussed what makes natural biomes so difficult to measure, and how nanoscience may help us unlock their secrets.

Thinking Smaller: How Nanoscience Can Help Us Understand Nature's Many Microbiomes

Feb 12, 2015

More than 50 million different species of single-celled microbes live on Earth, yet we know very little about the communities they inhabit. Two experts in the field, Eoin Brodie and Jack Gilbert, discuss how nanoscience may enable us to better understand their dynamics.

Microbiome and Neuroscience: The Mind-bending Power of Bacteria

Jan 08, 2015
Gut lining

Our bodies are home to a vast ecosystem of microbes – the microbiome – that has a powerful effect on the brain. Three researchers, Tracy Bale, Christopher Lowry and Sarkis Mazmanian, discuss the emerging gut-microbiome-brain connection and whether microbes may help us treat brain disorders.

Spotlight Live: The Microbiome & the Brain - A New State of Mind

Jan 08, 2015

On January 15, neuroscientist Christopher Lowry discussed the emerging science, that's connecting the microbiome – the community of microbes that inhabit the body – with brain health including whether we can treat common brain disorders through the gut.

The BRAIN Initiative: Surviving the Data Deluge

Sep 12, 2013
Brain chip

Mapping brain activity will produce nearly as much data as the Large Hadron Collider, yet managing the sheer volume of information will be the simplest challenge for brain data managers

UCSD Creates Center for Brain Activity Mapping: Interview with Director Ralph Greenspan

May 19, 2013
Brain

An interview with Ralph Greenspan as the University of California, San Diego announces a new Center for Brain Activity Mapping (CBAM).

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