The “Learning to Run” Challenge:

Engaging Data Scientists in Biomechanics

Most of us take walking or running for granted. But injury or neurological disease can cause these basic skills to deteriorate to such a degree that they need to be re-learned. To better understand how the brain accomplishes such learning, Stanford University’s Mobilize Center challenged the research community to a competition: develop a controller (essentially a brain) that will allow a physiologically-based human model to navigate through a complex obstacle course as quickly as possible.

Taking on the Exposome

How bioinformatics tools are bringing insight to the environmental side of the health equation

When it comes to what kills people, Nurture trumps Nature: Chronic diseases with overwhelmingly environmental (rather than genetic) causes are responsible for the deaths of two-thirds of the world’s population. Yet the investment made in unraveling the environmental side of the health equation pales by comparison to the investment in human genome research.


Computing the Gut

How are mathematics and systems approaches shedding light on gut formation and microbial interaction?

The heart holds a special place in human history and literature, and the brain may be the organ we most associate with a sense of self. But the proverbial seat of wisdom—the gut—deserves reverence, too.


It is an architectural wonder buzzing with activity. A 20- to 40-foot tube with many tight bends and folds, the gut houses trillions of bacteria working in cahoots with our own cells to extract energy from food and maintain health.


Assembling the 3-D Genome: A Puzzle with Many Solutions

Using computational approaches to assemble plausible 3-D structures

As a result of experimental techniques developed about a decade ago, researchers now have data that can be used to reconstruct how the genome is arranged inside the nucleus. This 3-D structure likely plays a role in determining cellular function by affecting cells’ ability to access, read and interpret genetic information.


Stem Cell (Re)Programming: Computing New Recipes

Leveraging big data, modeling, and computational biology to create new protocols

Most scientists seeking to turn back adult cells’ developmental clocks rely on go-to recipes that—when followed just right—will yield stem cells. A dash of one reprogramming factor, a sprinkle of another, and let the mixture stew. Likewise, when researchers want stem cells to remain stem cells or, alternatively, when they want them coaxed down a particular developmental pathway, they have cocktails they turn to. Most of these recipes were concocted using trial and error over the past few years, and then they’ve been passed between labs.

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