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What is systems biology?

Systems biology has emerged in the recent years as a holistic multidisciplinary approach that intends to understand biological complexity by considering living beings as global entities where the individual elements (genes, proteins) are less important than the relationships between them. In other words, systems biology is the study of biological systems, viewed as integrated and interrelated networks of genes, proteins, and biochemical reactions which give rise to complex physiological processes.

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How can systems biology help you?

The advancements in the last years, especially since the dawning of the so-called “omics era”, have revealed that living beings are not simply groups of genes or proteins that exert their function independently. Everything that alters somehow the normal physiological state of a cell or a tissue, ranging from gene mutations to the physiological effects of a drug, has a global impact that goes beyond the mutated gene or target protein.

Accordingly, when studying complex biological systems it is not sufficient to identify and characterize the individual parts of the system. It is also necessary to obtain a thorough understanding of the global interactions between molecules and biological pathways. This is even truer for comprehending multifactorial diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.

Systems biology meets this need by integrating all the available knowledge from genomics, interactomics and other ‘omics’ disciplines into complex mathematical models that emulate the behaviour of biological systems. In this manner, it has become an indispensable tool for investigations attempting to fully understand the global consequences of biological phenomena. Biomedical research, drug development and other related areas have already benefited from incorporating systems biology in their normal procedures.

The potential of systems biology in accelerating research and increasing our understanding of biological phenomena is vast, and it keeps growing as new technologies are developed and knowledge is generated. Among other advantages, this multidisciplinary approach can provide assistance to:

  • Investigate and understand the highly complex processes involved in the development of diseases and other physiological alterations.
  • Identify therapeutic targets and drugs that affect multiple pathways in complex diseases, thus achieving an appropriate polypharmacological effect.
  • Overcome pathway redundancy causing resistance to treatment in cancer and other diseases where classical approaches turn ineffective.
  • Determine the relevance of a specific molecule or pathway for the overall behaviour of the system or in the pathogenesis of a disease.
  • Assess the suitability of new chemical or biological entities as drugs by evaluating their mechanism of action in a global context.
  • Integrate data from different experiments, revealing complex properties that may not be apparent from single experiments, and interpret new experimental data in the context of the accumulated available knowledge about the functioning of biological systems.
  • Explore novel scenarios and develop hypotheses to guide the design of new and promising experiments.
  • De-risk scientific decisions and reduce research costs by identifying the most promising targets and drugs from a systematic, holistic point of view.

To date, systems biology solutions have been only available to a few. However, research institutions and companies working in the health sciences field can now benefit from them thanks to Anaxomics’ Therapeutic Performance Mapping System (TPMS) proprietary technology. Start learning more about TPMS and discover how it can make a difference in your biomedical and clinical research projects.

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