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  • Fahmida Choudhury

Biological Networks

How does anything even happen in the human body? 

The human body is made up of about 36 trillion cells, these cells are responsible for making up everything from your nose to your heart. Biological pathways are the sequence of biochemical reactions that occur within the human body that allow for you to perform any biological function. That includes metabolizing foods, perceiving external stimuli, and growing and developing the human body.

Understanding these pathways is essential to understanding the human body, and by mapping and analyzing these processes scientists can hope to combat crippling genetic diseases such as Huntington's disease.

Pathway Construction

Biological Pathways are discovered through years of experimentation with other organisms such as mice and fruit flies that are compiled into data and mapped and constructed. 

Pathway construction can serve two main objectives: data-driven or knowledge-driven. Data-driven construction aims to uncover relationships between genes or proteins based on experimental data, like microarray studies. On the other hand, knowledge-driven construction focuses on developing detailed knowledge bases for specific areas of interest, like certain cell types, diseases, or biological systems(1).

Now that we know how these maps are made and what they represent, how can they actually help scientists tackle these diseases? 

Fighting Genetic Diseases

A genetic disease like cancer can be better understood, by looking at its biological pathway. Over the past decade, many specific genes and the biological pathway they undergo cause cancer have been precisely identified and characterized. 

One such pathway is the ERnB family pathway, where overexpression of the ErbB gene is associated with tumor growth of the breast, ovaries, brain, and prostate gland. By understanding this scientist is able to develop gene therapy that specifically targets that gene to help treat breast cancer. 


There are so many biological pathways to uncover and by uncovering them all we can better understand the human body and help fight diseases. 

  1. Viswanathan GA, Seto J, Patil S, Nudelman G, Sealfon SC. Getting started in biological pathway construction and analysis. PLoS Comput Biol. 2008 Feb;4(2):e16. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0040016. PMID: 18463709; PMCID: PMC2323403.

  2. Vogelstein, B., Kinzler, K. Cancer genes and the pathways they control. Nat Med 10, 789–799 (2004).

  3. Ross JS, Fletcher JA, Bloom KJ, Linette GP, Stec J, Symmans WF, Pusztai L, Hortobagyi GN. Targeted therapy in breast cancer: the HER-2/neu gene and protein. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2004 Apr;3(4):379-98. doi: 10.1074/mcp.R400001-MCP200. Epub 2004 Feb 3. PMID: 14762215.

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