Multi-level models and infrastructures for simulating biological system development

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The hierarchical organisation of biological systems plays a crucial role in the pattern formation of gene expression resulting from the morphogenetic processes, where autonomous internal dynamics of cells, as well as cell-to-cell interactions through membranes, are responsible for the emergent peculiar structures of the individual phenotype. Being able to reproduce the sys- tems dynamics at different levels of such a hierarchy might be very useful for studying such a  complex phenomenon of self-organisation. The idea is to model the phenomenon in terms of a  large and dynamic network of compartments, where the interplay between inter-compartment and intra-compartment events determines the emergent behaviour resulting in the formation of spatial patterns. According to these premises it is presented a practical framework, MS-BioNET, for modelling and simulating multi-compartment scenarios exploiting the potential of multi-level dynamics. To overcome the problem of parameter tuning in the model, the simulators are supplied with a module for parameter optimisation. The task is defined as an optimisation problem over the parameter space in which the objective function to be minimised is the distance between the output of the simulator and a target one. The problem is tackled with a metaheuristic algorithm. As an example of application of the MS-BioNET framework a model of the first stages of Drosophila Melanogaster development is realised. The model goal is to generate the early spatial pattern of gap gene expression. The correctness of the models is shown comparing the simulation results with real data of gene expression with spatial and temporal resolution, acquired in free on-line sources. 

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