Sunday, November 7, 2010

Data Availability Improving

A new center called the National Resource for Network Biology (NRNB) based at the University of California in the San Diego School of Medicine will help clinicians analyze an ever growing wealth of complex biological data in order to apply that knowledge to real problems and diseases.

In recent years, the study of biological networks has exploded with scientists shifting much of their focus from single cells to complex systems and producing novel maps of interactive networks of genes and proteins that help define and describe functioning humans. But how do scientists deal with the exponential growth in the data that has resulted?

According to Trey Ideker Associate Professor of Bioengineering in the UC Jacobs School of Engineering, and Chief of the Division of Genetics at the School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the new center, NRNB is part of the answer. The Center was funded by a five year $6.5 million grant from NIH’s National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and is the only center of this type to be funded this year.

With support from NIH, the new center will enable researchers to use more and better tools to conduct advanced studies of biological systems that will result in sophisticated models of how human systems function or fail. This research will ultimately lead to new and improved treatments and therapies such as identifying disease biomarkers and molecular targets for potential drugs, being able to define genetic risk factors, plus decipher how individual or group social networks can affect the development and transmission of disease.

The program will have a balanced mix of software developers and bench biologists who know how to communicate with each other and with the greater community. Also the Center will join three other NCRR biomedical technology centers based at UC San Diego.

In another NIH effort, more than 2.5 million images and figures from medical and life sciences journals are now available at, a new resource for finding images in biomedical literature. The database was developed and will be maintained by NIH’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of NLM.

The available images are expected to have a wide range of uses for a variety of user groups. These include the clinician looking for the visual representation of a disease or condition, the researcher searching for studies with certain types of analyses, the student seeking diagrams that elucidate complex processes such as DNA replication, the professional or educator looking for an image for a presentation, and the patient wanting to better understand their disease.