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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. Research article

    Steering cell migration by alternating blebs and actin-rich protrusions

    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...

    Alba Diz-Muñoz, Pawel Romanczuk, Weimiao Yu, Martin Bergert, Kenzo Ivanovitch, Guillaume Salbreux, Carl-Philipp Heisenberg and Ewa K. Paluch

    BMC Biology 2016 14:74

    Published on: 2 September 2016

  2. Review

    An engineering viewpoint on biological robustness

    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...

    Mustafa Khammash

    BMC Biology 2016 14:22

    Published on: 23 March 2016

  3. Opinion

    Using mathematical models to understand metabolism, genes, and disease

    Mathematical models are a useful tool for investigating a large number of questions in metabolism, genetics, and gene–environment interactions. A model based on the underlying biology and biochemistry is a pla...

    H. Frederik Nijhout, Janet A. Best and Michael C. Reed

    BMC Biology 2015 13:79

    Published on: 23 September 2015

  4. Research article

    Control of Caenorhabditis elegans germ-line stem-cell cycling speed meets requirements of design to minimize mutation accumulation

    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...

    Michael Chiang, Amanda Cinquin, Adrian Paz, Edward Meeds, Christopher A. Price, Max Welling and Olivier Cinquin

    BMC Biology 2015 13:51

    Published on: 18 July 2015

  5. Research article

    Cell lineage branching as a strategy for proliferative control

    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...

    Gentian Buzi, Arthur D Lander and Mustafa Khammash

    BMC Biology 2015 13:13

    Published on: 19 February 2015

  6. Opinion

    The edges of understanding

    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...

    Arthur D Lander

    BMC Biology 2010 8:40

    Published on: 12 April 2010