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Research Abstracts Online
January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Biological Sciences
Medical School
Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development

PI: Michael B. O'Connor

Modeling Developmental Systems

During embryonic development, numerous processes conspire to reliably control the time and position of early gene expression that presages the adult body plan of an organism. To understand developmental mechanisms, mathematical models are often developed and evaluated based on their ability to reproduce experimental observations and make experimentally testable predictions. But most models are limited in their usefulness to make testable predictions since they simplify the geometry, boundary conditions, initial conditions, and molecular interactions of the system they are designed to emulate. To overcome these limitations, these researchers are developing methods to incorporate biological data for shape, expression patterns, and protein distributions into a mechanistic model of developmental patterning and solving the system in a three-dimensional reconstruction of the blastoderm embryo. Using this, they are testing alternative hypotheses for different types of feedback on the properties of the system. Including biological information for geometry, mRNA, and protein distributions directly into an organism-scale model yields a new tool for biological discovery and in silico hypothesis testing.

Group Members

Cristina Brakken-Thal, Graduate Student
Mu Sun, Research Associate