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FEATURE ARTICLE

Multiscale Modeling in Biology

New insights into cancer illustrate how mathematical tools are enhancing the understanding of life from the smallest scale to the grandest

Santiago Schnell, Ramon Grima, Philip Maini

Figure 3. Modeling biological processesClick to Enlarge Image

Cancer is one of many biological processes in which coupled mechanisms interact across multiple spatial and temporal scales: from the gene to the cell to the whole organism, from nanoseconds to years. Mathematicians are now working on the difficult task of building practical multiscale models that capture these complex dynamics. For example, one new cancer model uses information about the cell cycle, genes, cellular kinetics and tissue dynamics to test predictions of how the timing of radiation therapy might influence its effectiveness. Another explains what might be happening at the edge of a growing tumor. The authors talk about successes and failures in multiscale modeling and the role it might play in increasing our understanding of life's complexity.


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