(Image courtesy of Cray Supercomputing - more than 270 Cray supercomputers are now being deployed in the Blue Waters Project ongoing at the University of Illinois Center for Supercomputing Applications - the resulting supercomputer will be one of the world's fastest, and will be used for scientific research.)
Two new terms for the lexicon: In silico testing and bio-CAD design.
In vivo testing of a creature measures and observes conditions within a living creatures. In vitro testing of a creature measures and observes part of a creature within the glass of dishes and tubes. Now, in silico testing has matured to the point that an entire, existing creature has been measured, modeled and accurately operated inside a computer using algorithims and data built from over 900 traditional studies. Does the model work in ways that conform to real world observations ? Yes. The research findings were published in Cell in July - the outcome also is explained in a press release from Stanford and a ScienceDaily summary is here.
The results ? Excellent. The abstract for the paper states the results in the understated style of science:
Understanding how complex phenotypes arise from individual molecules and their interactions is a primary challenge in biology that computational approaches are poised to tackle. We report a whole-cell computational model of the life cycle of the human pathogen Mycoplasma genitalium that includes all of its molecular components and their interactions. An integrative approach to modeling that combines diverse mathematics enabled the simultaneous inclusion of fundamentally different cellular processes and experimental measurements. Our whole-cell model accounts for all annotated gene functions and was validated against a broad range of data. The model provides insights into many previously unobserved cellular behaviors, including in vivo rates of protein-DNA association and an inverse relationship between the durations of DNA replication initiation and replication. In addition, experimental analysis directed by model predictions identified previously undetected kinetic parameters and biological functions. We conclude that comprehensive whole-cell models can be used to facilitate biological discovery." (underling added)
The press release is not understated:
"In a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world's first complete computer model of an organism has been completed, Stanford researchers reported last week in the journal Cell.
Relevance for lawyers ? Sooner than we may imagine, it seems there will be Daubert hearings involving findings generated from all three types of research - in vivo, in vitro and in silico.