In silico biology

by Bruce Stewart

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This Economist article examines the emerging discipline of computational physiology (I guess "physioinformatics" was just a bit too much of a mouthful), and describes the advances that have been made in developing virtual organs. By applying complex computer models to biological entities researchers hope to create simulations that will rapidly advance medical science.

One of the challenges of computational physiology is that few of the existing physiological models and their associated databases can currently communicate with one another. Sounds like a problem for XML, right? Well, the Physiome Sciences group in Princeton and the Bioengineering Research Group at the University of Auckland agree, and are developing CellML, an XML-based markup language to store and exchange computer-based biological models.