Researchers Investigate Optimal Virulence in Protein Networks


Contributed by Dr. Kenneth Wickiser

Protein Networks are being focused on by researchers to address disorders ranging from infectious disease to neurological deficits. Biologists have generated novel techniques to produce an assessment of the levels of almost every protein, metabolite, and messenger RNA in a living cell but the tools to analyze the true impact of an external influence on the cell’s metabolism has been difficult. Dr. Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a key figure in Network Science, shown here at the TEDMED 2012 lecture ( discussing how using Social Network Analysis tools may unlock keys to how drugs may induce unintended consequences and how these higher order effects might be avoided.

In a  similar research effort at West Point, MAJ Paulo Shakarian, Ph.D. (EECS), and J. Kenneth Wickiser, Ph.D. (C&LS) are addressing the connectivity of protein networks in several biological problems using various network decomposition techniques. They are exploring how certain portions of the network relate to the biological importance of a particular gene product.  Of particular note, the researchers are investigating the role of achieving optimal virulence, the status within the genetic network of both the host and the pathogen which results in the most advantageous condition allowing the pathogen to persist.

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