The virtual liver: a multidisciplinary, multilevel challenge for systems biology

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Abstract

The liver is the central metabolic organ in human physiology, with functions that are fundamentally important to the detoxification of xenobiotics (drugs), the maintenance of homeostasis of numerous blood metabolites, and the production of mediators of the acute phase response. Liver toxicity, whether actual or implied is the reason for the failure of a significant proportion of many promising novel medicines that consequently never reach the market, and diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and fatty liver diseases, that are a major burden on current health resources, are directly linked to functional and structural disorders of the liver. This article presents the concepts and approaches underpinning one of the most exciting and ambitious modeling projects in the field of systems biology and systems medicine. This major multidisciplinary research program is aimed at developing a whole-organ model of the human liver, representing its central physiological functions under normal and pathological conditions The model will be composed of a larger battery of interconnected submodels representing liver anatomy and physiology, integrating processes across hierarchical levels in space, time, and structural organization. In this article, we outline the general architecture of the liver model and present first step taken to reach this ambitious goal. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2012 doi: 10.1002/wsbm.1158

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