Scientists have uncovered a way to model and predict cellular behavior in vivo (within a living system). As opposed to cellular models calculated using cultures grown in a dish, in vivo studies would allow for researchers to gain useful perspective on how cells within a living organism synchronize and behave when they are active within the extremely complex influences of a living system. This manner of modeling could lead to breakthroughs the fields of cancer and disease research.
Indeed, a useful tool for studying/ predicting disease and illness would be a means by which researchers could estimate and anticipate the patterns of the behavior of cells involved. Douglas Lauffenburger, head of the Biological Engineering program at MIT, mentioned in an article for Physorg.com that a sound understanding of any disease is reliant on understanding how it effects an entire system. What researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have managed to achieve with these new developments is the opportunity to observe different types of cells within the context of an organism's internal machinery. For example, according to Physorg.com, researchers for MIT and MASS General were able to create a computational model for the effect of a tumor necrosis factor's effect on mouse intestinal cells. In effect, scientists were able to more closely moniter where and how a drug was influencing a mouses inner-workings.
The possibilities that can stem from these developments ranges from the testing of new drugs to the study of cancer growth and development. For instance, the growth of cancers functions under an extremely complicated mechanism by which several different signals and signalling pathways are disrupted. A more developed, and specific knowledge of the way in which cancer spreads would benefit the manner in which researchers develop drugs, and would in theory help develop drugs designed around the specific mechanisms of cancer growth.
Currently, the majority of cancer prevention and treatment centers around early detection, and in some cases, surgical removal of cancer cells. With drugs that could prevent that could prevent and eliminate cancer events where our own immune systems fail, it would be possible to reduce the need for surgical and radiation-based treatments.
In effect, without intimate knowledge of how drugs and diseases interact with cells on a systematic level, complicated treatments like that of cancer treatment would be comparable to having to write a blog post when you keep forgetting when your group is supposed to post.