Life Sciences – Overview
Biological processes are inherently complex as they are not only governed by the interaction of physical and chemical processes but also underlie genetical constraints and evolution. Theoretical biology aims at a quantitative understanding of biological systems, their dynamics and interaction across scales. To this end new analysis approaches are developed to extract relevant information from either tera and petabyte sized data sets, or from very scarce data.
Based on quantitative information provided by experimental data, mathematical models can be formulated in order to abstract and generalize the structure or behavior of a system, and to allow predictions. Mathematical models are a means to identify the level of complexity necessary to explain a given observation, but also represent building blocks to create understanding of the behavior of larger systems.
Model predictions provide guidance for experimental design and clinical studies, reduce the need for animal testing, and help to develop treatment strategies and ecological policies.
Current topics in theoretical biology are the interplay between chemical signaling and biomechanics (forces), decision-making on the cell and systems-level, emergent phenomena, such as collective behavior, or the formation of patterns or structures based on the (inter-)action of small-scale components.
Our research focuses on:
- How can chemical signaling pathways and/or mechanical forces regulate directed movement and collective behavior of small bacterial pathogens?
- Which specific nonlinear interactions between pathogens and immune system components lead to the occurrence of chronic infections? And how can chronic infections be treated?
- How important are mechanical cues and inter-cellular forces for migratory properties of cancer cells, and how are the mechanical properties of cancer cells affected by chemical inhibitors targeted against migration and metastasis?
- How are cellular forces and shape changes coordinated across a tissue to achieve morphogenesis?
- How does the interplay of mechanical, chemical or neuronal cues shape and control the development and properties of spatial and spatio-temporal patterns, e.g. skin camouflage patterns in the cuttlefish or the regular pattern of hair follicles during embryonic development?