Multicellular biological systems, including human organs, growing plants, and gut microbiota, are complex systems with a hierarchical structure: molecules form cells, cells form tissues, and tissues form organs. These levels of organization dynamically influence one another. Simulations of living organisms must thus keep track of processes occurring, in parallel, at the molecular scale, the cellular scale, and the tissue level scale.
This is a tremendous computational challenge as well as a major scientific challenge. Together with academic and R&D life-science partners, our Life Sciences group develops new mathematical and computational models and tools to unravel the counterintuitive dynamics of multiscale biological systems.
The insights and methodology derived from our research are applied to basic experimental research in cell and developmental biology, to preclinical research in the pharmaceutical sciences, and to nutrition research. Specific applications of our work include angiogenesis and tumour evolution, metabolism and ecology of the gut microbiota, and plant development.
Our simulation models of biological systems are used in experimental design, to develop new hypotheses, and to identify ‘missing links’ in our understanding of biological systems. They are a cost saver in life-sciences research, by refining the search space for potential new compounds as well as the interpretation of experimental data.
Contact person: Roeland Merks
Research group: Life Sciences (LS)
Research partners: Leiden University, AMC, VUMC, LUMC, Nara Institute for Science and Technology, SysBioSim
Tools: VirtualLeaf (open source), Tissue Simulation Toolkit (open source), In silico gut microbiome (in house)