Stanford researchers have produced the first complete computer model of a virtual organism. Using data from more than 900 scientific papers, the team led by Professor Markus Covert was able to account for every single molecular interaction which takes place in the world’s smallest free-living bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium. (Illustration: Erik Jacobsen / Covert Lab)According to James M. Anderson, director of the National Institutes of Health Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, “This achievement demonstrates a transforming approach to answering questions about fundamental biological processes. Comprehensive computer models of entire cells have the potential to advance our understanding of cellular function and, ultimately, to inform new approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
The knowledge and understanding gained could open the door to Bio CAD, or computer aided design.
Jonathan Karr, co-first author and Stanford biophysics graduate student said, “The goal hasn’t only been to understand M. genitalium better, it’s to understand biology generally. This is potentially the new Human Genome Project. It’s going to take a really large community effort to get close to a human model.”