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Introduction to the Systems Biology of Malaria

metabolomics dataset

Systems biology involves the holistic study of an entire biological system, rather than a reductionist approach that focuses on only one small part of a system.  Examples of systems studied include the set of biochemical pathways within a cell, the entire cell itself, an organ, or even a whole organism or the interaction of different organisms. For the study of malaria in the context of MaHPIC project, “systems biology” means first collecting comprehensive data on how a Plasmodium parasite infection produces changes in host and parasite genes, proteins, lipids, the immune response and metabolism. Computational researchers then design mathematical models to simulate and analyze what’s happening during an infection and find patterns that predict the course of the disease and its severity. Such insights can help guide the development of new interventions. Co-infections and morbidities are also taken into consideration, as well as different cultural and environmental backgrounds of the communities involved.