Systems Biology Approaches to Understanding the Cause and Treatment of Heart, Lung, Blood, and Sleep Disorders
Raimond L Winslow
Development of powerful new high- throughput technologies for probing the transcriptome, proteome and metabolome is driving the rapid acquisition of information on the function of molecular systems. The importance of these achievements cannot be understated - they have transformed the nature of both biology and medicine. Despite this dramatic progress, one of the greatest challenges that continues to confront modern biology is to understand how behavior at the level of genome, proteome and metabolome determines physiological function at the level of cell, tissue and organ in both health and disease. Because of the inherent complexity of biological systems, the development, analysis, and validation of integrative computational models based directly on experimental data is necessary to achieve this understanding. This approach, known as systems biology, integrates computational and experimental approaches through iterative development of mathematical models and experimental validation and testing. The combination of these approaches allows for a mechanistic understanding of the function of complex biological systems in health and their dysfunction in disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has recognized the importance of the systems biology approach for understanding normal physiology and perturbations associated with heart, lung, blood, and sleep diseases and disorders. In 2006, NHLBI announced the Exploratory Program in Systems Biology, followed in 2010 by the NHLBI Systems Biology Collaborations. The goal of these programs is to support collaborative teams of investigators in using experimental and computational strategies to integrate the component parts of biological networks and pathways into computational models that are based firmly on and validated using experimental data. These validated models are then applied to gain insights into the mechanisms of altered system function in disease, to generate novel hypotheses regarding these mechanisms that can be tested experimentally, and to then use the results of experiments to refine the models. The purpose of this Research Topic is to present the range of innovative, new approaches being developed by investigators working in areas of systems biology that couple experimental and modeling studies to understand the cause and possible treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep diseases and disorders. This Research Topic will be of great interest to the cardiovascular research community as well as to the general community of systems biologists.