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Peter Kohl, MD, PhD
Understanding Biological Systems: Mission Impossible?
Professor and Chair of Cardiac Biophysics and Systems Biology, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London; Visiting Professor, Department for Computer Science, Oxford University, Oxford, England
2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke, VA 24016
What is systems biology? How does it differ from biomedical studies of the building blocks of human life, such as the human genome? And why do we need it? Part of the answer to the last question lies in what any five-year-old proud owner of a Lego set will tell you: having the blocks doesn’t mean you can build a train, at least without help.
Scientists increasingly turn to computer models for help with their bricks. But can those models be relied on? If so, will computer simulations eventually replace experiments on living beings that still form part of the medical approval process? And when will we have an all-inclusive model of a patient?
Questions such as these are often raised in the context of post-genomic research into biological systems. Dr. Kohl will present a personal and—as he admits—likely biased view on the “Systems Biology Challenge.” He will illustrate this with examples from his own research into heart function, and he will finish with a praise of failure. So—what could possibly go wrong?
A public reception will precede this event in the VTC Cafe at 5 p.m.
About the Speaker:
Peter Kohl, MD, PhD, holds the chair in cardiac biophysics and systems biology at Imperial College London and is a visiting professor at the Department for Computer Science at the University of Oxford. He also is the deputy director of the Magdi Yacoub Institute in London. Dr. Kohl helped establish the concept that cardiac fibroblasts can make relevant contributions to the electro-mechanical integration of myocardium, including the discovery in situ of gap junctional coupling between fibroblasts and myocytes in native heart tissue (rabbit atrium). His lab currently works in mechano-electrical interactions and whole-heart integration, based on multi-modal/multi-resolution imaging across scales from subcellular levels to whole heart, combined with quantitative assessment of electro-mechanical interactions, and including the translation of conceptual to computational models. That approach has required the development of new imaging techniques, such as temporal pixel multiplexing, which allows one to obtain high-resolution stills and high-speed movies at the same time. The overall theme underlying Dr. Kohl’s research builds on the use of experimental and theoretical tools, to com¬bine reduction and integration, or what one might call systems biology of the heart. Dr. Kohl earned his MD and PhD from the Moscow Pirogov Institute.