Biomedical Technology Resources
Collaboration Through Dissemination
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National Resource for Cell Analysis and Modeling

Leslie M. Loew, Ph.D.

Center Overview

The National Resource for Cell Analysis and Modeling (NRCAM) develops new technologies for modeling cell biological processes. The technologies are integrated through Virtual Cell (VCell), a problem solving environment built on a central database and disseminated as a web application for analysis, modeling and simulation of cell biological processes. NRCAM has as its mission the growth of the VCell technology via research at the interface of physics, mathematics, computer science and biology. NRCAM is housed in a research center comprising an interdisciplinary faculty and containing state of the art facilities for studying living cells. This environment assures that experiment and theory drive each other synergistically. The research is organized into four project areas. Biophyscial Mechanisms focuses on the development of general physical formulations for several important clases of cell biological mechansisms not currently included in VCell, including cytoskeletal dynamics, multimolecular complexes, mechanical forces and neuronal electrophysiology. Numerical Algorithms focuses on improvements to simulation methods available in VCell. Data Driven Modeling develops enhanced VCell support for experimental data to both facilitate analysis of experimental data through standalone tools, such as VirtualFRAP, and to permit direct comparison of simulation and experiment through parameter estimation and visualization technologies. Finaly, Model Building Blocks develops tools to aid in the construction of models, such as interfaces with existing model and pathway databases, rule-based approaches to building models and modular representation of model components. Driving biological projects that collectively motivate all of the TR&D projects and collaborative projects represent a challenging collection of studies that use VCell in creative ways for a diverse set of biomedical problems. Through training, dissemination and collaborative activities, NRCAM promotes a quantitative approach to cell biological research. VCell represents an advanced tool for investigations of the cellular basis of disease, especially as related to the cardiac, nervous and immune systems and cancer. As the database of models expands, simulating drug actions and side effects will become increasingly feasible.

Impact on Human Health

Computational modeling, enabled by the VCell technologies and the supported collaborations, will offer deep insights into the cellular basis of disease, especially as related to the cardiac, nervous and immune systems and cancer. It will also enable computational modeling of pharmacological interventions.