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Beyond Mendel: modeling in biology

Consulting Editors: Arthur Lander, Ewa Paluch

Modeling has a long and distinguished history in biology, and is becoming increasingly important as the growing availability of enormous datasets challenges the ability of biologists to extract understanding from knowledge [1]. The construction of models for biological systems is however widely regarded with suspicion, partly because much modeling seems an empty intellectual exercise that fails to deliver biological insight. This series is launched with the objective of explaining the importance of modeling for biologists [2], and how to exploit the power and elegance of quantitative reasoning without losing sight of the biological reality.

The series is dedicated to our Editorial Board member Julian Lewis, on whose death in April 2014 the field lost an outstanding example of how to combine theoretical elegance with biological relevance [3].

The three articles featured here include an appreciation of Julian Lewis, and illustrate the aims of the series.

Submissions reflecting the application of quantitative and modeling approaches to biological research are welcomed.

1. Lander A: The edges of understanding. BMC Biology 2010, 8:40.
2. Gunawardena J: Models in biology: accurate descriptions of our pathetic thinking. BMC Biology 2014, 12:29.
3. Lander A: Making sense in biology: an appreciation of Julian Lewis. BMC Biology 2014, 12:57.

  1. High directional persistence is often assumed to enhance the efficiency of chemotactic migration. Yet, cells in vivo usually display meandering trajectories with relatively low directional persistence, and the...

    Authors: Alba Diz-Muñoz, Pawel Romanczuk, Weimiao Yu, Martin Bergert, Kenzo Ivanovitch, Guillaume Salbreux, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg and Ewa K. Paluch
    Citation: BMC Biology 2016 14:74
  2. In his splendid article “Can a biologist fix a radio? — or, what I learned while studying apoptosis,” Y. Lazebnik argues that when one uses the right tools, similarity between a biological system, like a signa...

    Authors: Mustafa Khammash
    Citation: BMC Biology 2016 14:22
  3. How a potentially diverse population of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) differentiates and proliferates to supply more than 1011 mature blood cells every day in humans remains a key biological question. We invest...

    Authors: Sidhartha Goyal, Sanggu Kim, Irvin SY Chen and Tom Chou
    Citation: BMC Biology 2015 13:85
  4. Stem cells are thought to play a critical role in minimizing the accumulation of mutations, but it is not clear which strategies they follow to fulfill that performance objective. Slow cycling of stem cells pr...

    Authors: Michael Chiang, Amanda Cinquin, Adrian Paz, Edward Meeds, Christopher A. Price, Max Welling and Olivier Cinquin
    Citation: BMC Biology 2015 13:51
  5. Fixation of beneficial genes in bacteria and archaea (collectively, prokaryotes) is often believed to erase pre-existing genomic diversity through the hitchhiking effect, a phenomenon known as genome-wide sele...

    Authors: Nobuto Takeuchi, Otto X Cordero, Eugene V Koonin and Kunihiko Kaneko
    Citation: BMC Biology 2015 13:20
  6. How tissue and organ sizes are specified is one of the great unsolved mysteries in biology. Experiments and mathematical modeling implicate feedback control of cell lineage progression, but a broad understandi...

    Authors: Gentian Buzi, Arthur D Lander and Mustafa Khammash
    Citation: BMC Biology 2015 13:13
  7. Many organisms coordinate cell growth and division through size control mechanisms: cells must reach a critical size to trigger a cell cycle event. Bacterial division is often assumed to be controlled in this ...

    Authors: Lydia Robert, Marc Hoffmann, Nathalie Krell, Stéphane Aymerich, Jérôme Robert and Marie Doumic
    Citation: BMC Biology 2014 12:17
  8. A culture's icons are a window onto its soul. Few would disagree that, in the culture of molecular biology that dominated much of the life sciences for the last third of the 20th century, the dominant icon was...

    Authors: Arthur D Lander
    Citation: BMC Biology 2010 8:40