Category: Developmental Systems Biology

Searching for the inner structure of biological systems; an ongoing quest

An address to PhD students from NIMR and UCL at Mill Hill (London, UK) 16 May 2013. There is pdf version of this post here.  “It is difficult and often impossible to judge the value of a problem correctly in advance; for the final award depends upon the gain which science obtains from the problem. Nevertheless we can ask whether there are general criteria which mark a good mathematical problem……. A mathematical problem should be difficult in order to entice us, yet not completely inaccessible, lest it mock at our efforts. It should be to us a guide post on […]

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Appendix to “What do genetic screens tell us about the inner structure of biological systems in developmental and cell biology”

Outline of a proposal for the inner structure of the cell: an interactive project. Here I would like to put forward a seed for a framework to think about the ‘inner structure of the cell” which should help framing the outcome of genetic screens. S. Brenner has talked about the inner representation of an organism when referring to the manner in which its different parts, its development are encoded in the genome. I would argue that in order for this notion to be useful and to be useful in the use of Genetics to unravel it (see the companion piece […]

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What do genetic screens tell us about the inner structure of biological systems in developmental and cell biology?

NOTE: This is not a review (this is not the place for such things). This is a commentary, a couple of rough notes unpolished and free in style, an attempt to generate discussion and debate, of pouring out some thoughts. One important thing,  in case you reach the end: I believe what I say here. It is likely that this will evolve. If you have any thoughts or comments, do not hesitate to contact me (ama11@hermes.cam.ac.uk). A PDF version of this can be downloaded from here. “We are confronted by a nonlinear system the theory of which is fragmentary, complex […]

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Stem Cells in Developmental Biology: a debate at the BSDB

Last week the BSDB (British Society for Developmental Biology) celebrated its annual gathering at Warwick. Always a good place to go for quality developmental biology which is enhanced by the arrangement of holding the meeting together with the BSCB (British Society for Cell Biology): these days there is much cell biology in developmental biology. One of the BSDB sessions focused on Stem Cells and highlighted the clear connection between this area of research and developmental biology, or so it seems to some of us but ……perhaps not all. The AGM of the BSDB had, for the second year running, a […]

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On epistasis, or how genetic analysis can mislead us about biological processes.

As I am about to embark on my brief lecturing stint in the department, thoughts about the subject matter come to mind. One that always concerns me is the value of epistasis (the exercise to create functional hierarchies of genes through the analysis of the phenotypes of double mutants) to learn about processes in developmental biology. The problem is simple. Genetics is to Biology what mathematics is to Physics: a formal language that allows us to pose questions and find answers. A mutant screen is, in many ways, the formulation of a problem: what controls the decision of a bacterium […]

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