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Computational biology

Much of today's research in biology and medicine relies on computational methods and computer models. Modern measurement techniques generate large amounts of data that need to be processed and analyzed to push science forward. To understand and predict biological processes, various types of models are required, which have become increasingly demanding to construct as knowledge, level of detail, and data volumes have increased.

At CEC, research in computational biology take several different directions, primarily in collaboration with researchers in natural sciences and medicine at Lund University and other academic institutions.

Large molecules such as proteins, DNA, and RNA are studied within the field of biomolecular physics. Often, these molecules are investigated in aqueous solutions, but less is known about their behavior in living cells. Questions of particular interest to us include membraneless organelles, protein aggregation, and how molecular crowding affects protein properties. Using tools from statistical physics and computational physics, we build models and investigate biomolecular processes and properties. Some of the research is conducted in collaboration with experimental groups, and on the computational side, there are connections to the Supercomputing Centre in Jülich, Germany.

Other questions arise when bio- and nanophysics are combined. The main research in this direction focuses on imaging DNA in nanochannels, a method that can rapidly provide information on a coarse scale about the information content and length of DNA molecules from both bacteria and humans. Other projects tackle topics such as how encapsulation and molecular crowding affect polymers and marker particles. Collaborations with experimental groups are complemented by methods from statistical physics, computational physics, image analysis, and statistics.

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Research in systems biology focuses on the networks of interactions and proteins that govern living cells. Computational models are developed to describe how genetic, epigenetic, and metabolic networks function in cells and multicellular systems. We conduct interdisciplinary research in close collaboration with researchers in medicine and biology. Together, we develop new methods linked to new types of experiments and data. Regulation of stem cells is an important area of this research. It can involve how cells of the immune system make decisions to mature, or how skin cells can be directly reprogrammed into nerve cells or stem cells. Research questions outside the medical field include, among others, decomposition processes in soil where fungi interact with organic molecules and mineral particles.

The latter also links to research and development of methods and software for correcting and analyzing spectroscopic images. This primarily applies to spectra collected using various techniques in the infrared part of the spectrum. Methods are being developed, including optical photothermal infrared spectroscopy (O-PTIR), a new and powerful technique used at CEC. Spectroscopic imaging methods have many applications in the environmental field, but also in medicine, such as the diagnosis of skin cancer and studies of neurodegenerative diseases. The practical application of these methods is facilitated through CIPA, the university's infrastructure for user support in image processing.

Related research environments and research infrastructure


Anders Irbäck
Assistant director, CEC
E-mail: anders [dot] irback [at] cec [dot] lu [dot] se (anders[dot]irback[at]cec[dot]lu[dot]se)
Mobile: +46 46 222 34 93