1/2009

Understanding diseases
through gene regulatory networks

Stuart Kauffman

Professor Stuart Kauffman has done pioneering research in the field
of theoretical biology and complex systems and is best-known for
complementing Darwinian theories of natural selection.

Professor Stuart Kauffman, a distinguished researcher of complexity science, from the University of Calgary, came to work at TUT at the beginning of 2009 within the FiDiPro programme funded by Tekes. For the next four years, he will research and teach complexity science at TUT.

Kauffman's project focuses on stochastic models of gene regulatory networks that is, the self-regulatory mechanisms of genes. The some 30,000 genes in each human cell form a complex network of interacting parts of which only some are active at any given time. The project aims at discovering complex regularities inherent in the networks. The results are expected to increase our understanding of disease mechanisms.

The research results also have practical applications for the early detection of diseases, such as cancer; furthermore, they can help us predict patients' individual responses to treatment. The objective is to select the best possible treatment for each patient.

Complementing Darwin's theory

Professor Kauffman is passionate about science and believes that his dedication has enabled him to ask questions that have not been raised before. Over the course of his career, Kauffman has worked within several fields of science, such as theoretical biology, complex systems and medical research. He has researched the origin of life, gene regulatory networks as well as financial networks.

Internationally, Professor Kauffman is most widely known for complementing Darwin's theory of natural selection. According to him, self-organization is at least as important as Darwinian natural selection in producing the complexity of biological systems and organisms.

Six years of collaboration

Professor Kauffman has collaborated with TUT's research team on computational systems biology led by Professor Olli Yli-Harja since 2003.

"Professor Kauffman's expertise in the fields of theoretical biology, complexity and systems biology and the competence of TUT's research team in modelling measuring equipment complement each other very well", says Professor Yli-Harja.

The multidisciplinary research team on computational systems biology comprises of approximately 50 researchers at TUT.

 

5 FiDiPro professors currently at TUT

The Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro) is a joint funding programme established by the Academy of Finland and Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, to recruit top foreign researchers and expatriate Finns who have worked abroad for a long time to work at Finnish universities for a set period of time. The programme aims at strengthening scientific and technological competence in Finland.

At present, there are five FiDiPro professors working at TUT: Edward J. Delp, Atef Z. Elsherbeni, Stuart Alan Kauffman, Günter Steinmeyer and Olli Tuovinen.

 

Text and photo: Tuuli Laukkanen

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