Scientists at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have constructed a computer simulation that allows them to study the relationship between biochemical fluctuations within a single cell and the cell’s behavior as it interacts with other cells and its environment.

The simulation, called AgentCell, has possible applications in cancer research, drug development and combating bioterrorism. Other simulations of biological systems are limited to the molecular level, the single-cell level or the level of bacterial populations. AgentCell can simultaneously simulate activity on all three scales, something its creators believe no other software can do.

“With AgentCell we can simulate the behavior of entire populations of cells as they sense their environment, respond to stimuli and move in a three-dimensional world,” said Thierry Emonet, a Research Scientist in Philippe Cluzel’s laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Biophysical Dynamics.

Emonet and his colleagues have verified the accuracy of AgentCell in biological experiments. AgentCell now enables scientists rapidly to run test experiments on the computer, saving them valuable time in the laboratory later.

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