Systems Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 450 Views Jan 5, 2023

Understanding how genes are differentially expressed across tissues is key to reveal the etiology of human diseases. Genes are never expressed in isolation, but rather co-expressed in a community; thus, they co-act through intricate but well-orchestrated networks. However, existing approaches cannot coalesce the full properties of gene–gene communication and interactions into networks. In particular, the unavailability of dynamic gene expression data might impair the application of existing network models to unleash the complexity of human diseases. To address this limitation, we developed a statistical pipeline named DRDNetPro to visualize and trace how genes dynamically interact with each other across diverse tissues, to ascertain health risk from static expression data. This protocol contains detailed tutorials designed to learn a series of networks, with the illustration example from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project. The proposed toolbox relies on the method developed in our published paper (Chen et al., 2022), coding all genes into bidirectional, signed, weighted, and feedback looped networks, which will provide profound genomic information enabling medical doctors to design precise medicine.

Graphical abstract

Flowchart illustrating the use of DRDNetPro. The left panel contains the summarized pipeline of DRDNetPro and the right panel contains one pseudo-illustrative example. See the Equipment and Procedure sections for detailed explanations.

0 Q&A 2823 Views Nov 20, 2021

Translational work in rodents elucidates basic mechanisms that drive complex behaviors relevant to psychiatric and neurological conditions. Nonetheless, numerous promising studies in rodents later fail in clinical trials, highlighting the need for improving the translational utility of preclinical studies in rodents. Imaging of small rodents provides an important strategy to address this challenge, as it enables a whole-brain unbiased search for structural and dynamic changes that can be directly compared to human imaging. The functional significance of structural changes identified using imaging can then be further investigated using molecular and genetic tools available for the mouse. Here, we describe a pipeline for unbiased search and characterization of structural changes and network properties, based on diffusion MRI data covering the entire mouse brain at an isotropic resolution of 100 µm. We first used unbiased whole-brain voxel-based analyses to identify volumetric and microstructural alterations in the brain of adult mice exposed to unpredictable postnatal stress (UPS), which is a mouse model of complex early life stress (ELS). Brain regions showing structural abnormalities were used as nodes to generate a grid for assessing structural connectivity and network properties based on graph theory. The technique described here can be broadly applied to understand brain connectivity in other mouse models of human disorders, as well as in genetically modified mouse strains.

Graphic abstract:

Pipeline for characterizing structural connectome in the mouse brain using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. Scale bar = 1 mm.

0 Q&A 6318 Views Jul 20, 2019
Multibeam scanning electron microscopy (multiSEM) provides a technical platform for seamless nano-to-mesoscale mapping of cells in human tissues and organs, which is a major new initiative of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Such cross-length-scale imaging is expected to provide unprecedented understanding of relationships between cellular health and tissue-organ as well as organismal-scale health outcomes. For example, understanding relationships between loss in cell viability and cell network connectivity enables identification of emergent behaviors and prediction of degenerative disease onset, in organs as diverse as bone and brain, at early timepoints, providing a basis for future treatments and prevention. Developed for rapid throughput imaging of minute defects on semiconductor wafers, multiSEM has recently been adapted for imaging of human organs, their constituent tissues, and their respective cellular inhabitants. Through integration of geospatial approaches, statistical and network modelling, advances in computing and the management of immense datasets, as well as recent developments in machine learning that enable the automation of big data analyses, multiSEM and other cross- cutting imaging technologies have the potential to exert a profound impact on elucidation of disease mechanisms, translating to improvements in human health. Here we provide a protocol for acquisition and preparation of sample specimen sizes of diagnostic relevance for human anatomy and physiology. We discuss challenges and opportunities to integrate this approach with multibeam scanning electron microscopy workflows as well as multiple imaging modalities for mapping of organ and tissue structure and function.

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