Introducing evolutionary systems biology
A new framework was developed for combining modern systems biology and evolutionary genetics. Evolutionary systems biology may help us to answer some of the most difficult problems in evolutionary biology.
Each adaptive landscape is defined by a 'height' (e.g. fitness) that exists for each point in a 'plane' (e.g. combinations of genes). Computing or measuring this 'height' and navigating the 'plane' is extraordinary difficult for most biological systems.
Nothing in biology makes sense except properly quantified in the light of evolution.
Evolutionary systems biology aims to bring together the rich mechanistic details of current systems biology and the long-standing quantitative experience in evolutionary genetics in order to increase the quantitative rigor of biological analyses.
Since current systems biology means many things to many people, it is perhaps inevitable that evolutionary systems biology might be even broader. A potentially useful framework that goes beyond comparative analyses of systems biology data has been developed to help prepare the biological background for future evolution@home simulators. The new framework centers around a research program for quantifying the adaptive landscape that governs the evolution of life.
Approaches from evolutionary systems biology promise new insights into the fundamental parameters of evolution that apply to all models of evolution. For example, meaningful models of how species adapt to environmental changes over a long time frequently need to know how many of the DNA changes that constantly occur are harmful, how many are beneficial and how large the corresponding effects are.
For a short introduction into evolutionary systems biology, see http://evolutionarysystemsbiology.org/intro/.
For more details, see Loewe, L (2009) A framework for evolutionary systems biology. BMC Systems Biology 2009, 3:27.
For info on an upcoming Symposium on the topic (25 Aug 2009, Turin, Italy) see here, here and here.