Systems biology approaches to multicellular systems are complex and require the development of new techniques, new approaches and the collaboration of groups from different fields.
Our model of choice is the developing Drosophila wing – a well studied organ system that is relatively simple and thus accesssible for a systems biology approach. During embryogenesis, progenitor cells are set aside and give rise to a single layered epithelium consisting of about 60’000 cells at the end of the larval stages. Despite its relative simplicity, this organ system offers challenging properties - considering that the developing wing is arranged in compartments and its growth and patterning is dependent on diffusible molecules called morphogens. Our approach aims at providing spatio-temporal resolution of quantitative data recorded during wing development at the molecular, cellular, and tissue level. The results obtained will advance the understanding of organogenesis and will set new standards in the application of optical and computational methods for complex biological problems.
Since the start of the WingX project in 2008, biologists had to generate, analyze and interpret quantitative datasets and learn how to use modeled to extract information from these data. The physicists, engineers and computer scientists had to understand the biological problem and find it sufficiently interesting and challenging for their own discipline. The project made significant progress and laid the foundation that can now be exploited further in 2012 and hopefully in the next funding period.