The Biology of Ageing e-Science Integration and Simulation (BASIS) System

Darren Wilkinson1, Tom Kirkwood2, Richard Boys, Colin Gillespie, Carole Proctor, Daryl Shanley, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK;, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Ageing is a complex biological process involving interactions between a number of biochemical mechanisms whose effects occur at the molecular, cell, tissue and whole organism levels. Whilst rapid progress is being made in understanding individual components of the ageing process, knowledge is fragmented. Therefore we propose to develop an innovative biomathematical and bioinformatics system that will allow the integration of data and hypotheses from diverse biological sources. Our intention is to establish a biology of ageing e-science integration and simulation system (BASIS) that will encourage and support the interaction between biological science, bioinformatics, IT, mathematics and statistics in this recognised field.

The BASIS project has two main aims. It will significantly extend the scope of current integrative models and it will make these models widely accessible. Accessibility will be achieved by developing a GRID node where investigators can explore models and run simulations for themselves. The BASIS system aims to engage biologists in exploring the range of model predictions by selecting and running parameter combinations of their own and in dialogue about model specification and design.

Although the main focus of study will be a virtual ageing cell, a virtual ageing tissue and more ambitiously, a virtual ageing organism will also be considered. The virtual ageing cell model will be developed using a set of interacting modules to represent key variables and reaction pathways within the cell. A combination of deterministic models and stochastic models will be included. The virtual ageing tissue and virtual ageing organism models will be developed using cellular-automoton methodology in which individual cells will be represented by virtual ageing cells, and the interactions between cells and decisions about cell division and/or migration will be made according to state-dependent rules. There is increasing evidence that intrinsic chance variations at the molecular and cellular level contribute to the ageing process, and a key feature of the BASIS project will be to help understand more precisely how this occurs.

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