Network science as a gateway to understanding of emerging dynamics and function of multicellular systems

author: Marko Gosak, Univerza v Mariboru
published: July 9, 2018,   recorded: May 2018,   views: 475


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The past two decades have witnessed the coming of age of network science as the central paradigm behind some of the most fascinating discoveries of the 21st century. In the complex networks framework, system elements are network nodes, and connections between nodes represent some form of interaction between system elements [1]. The flexibility to define network nodes and edges to represent different aspects of biological systems has been employed to model numerous diverse systems at multiple scales [2]. In the lecture I shall review the recent advances in the study of complex biological systems that were inspired and enabled by methods of network science. Specific focus will be given to the extraction of functional connectivity patterns in multicellular systems, with emphasis on insulin secreting beta cell populations in islets of Langerhans. Describing the intercellular activity patterns by means of network language has not only revealed that beta cell networks share many architectural similarities with several other real-life networks, such as small-worldness, heterogeneity, and modularity, but also leads to important new insights into the relationship between cellular metabolic activity and the orchestration of collective behavior [2]. Finally, I will concentrate on the emerging field of multilayer networks and highlight the potential offered by this framework in exploring the complex organization of tissues in both health and disease.

[1] Barabási A-L. Network Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2016. [2] Gosak M, et al., Network science of biological systems at different scales: A review, Physics of Life Reviews. 2017; 10.1016/j.plrev.2017.11.003.

Financing: Slovenian Research Agency

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