How mathematics can help us understand the human body

Healthy human bodies are good at regulation. Namely, our temperature remains around 36.8 degrees, no matter how hot or cold the temperature around us was. Blood sugar levels remain fairly constant, even when we drink a glass of juice. We maintain the right amount of calcium in both the bones and the rest of the body. Homeostasis is actually that regulation without which we could not survive. And when systems fail, the results can cause illness or, sometimes, death.

In presentations at the annual meeting of the American Society for the Advancement of Science, researchers argued that mathematics could explain and predict these failures, potentially offering new ways to treat systems to prevent or fix them when things go wrong.

So if you had info in details, accurate and correct math models, you could numerically research those strong systems, find places where control indeed really happens, and then you could assess and more learn how things were going wrong and how you could correct that at highest level.”

Scientists have a good understanding of the biological reasons why such regulation occurs. Certain systems in our bodies must be constant in order to function and keep our bodies alive. The math behind it is not entirely certain.

However, understanding homeostasis could be a way to provide targeted medical care to people in need, said Janet Best, a math professor.

Scientists at MBI and other famous research centers, which study how math and biology can intersect, have built models that explain how the body can maintains final stage of homeostasis in different particular systems. At the heart of these models is a graph, a mathematical concept that attempts to explain how objects relate to each other.

This breakdown causes a number of problems – for example, too much glucose in a person’s blood or a lack of calcium in the bones.

AAAS presentations focused on a graph showing how the body regulates dopamine levels through homeostasis and how graph theory helps identify chart properties that can help predict homeostasis. They presented that by calculating changes at the nodes, it might be possible to calculate or predict changes in dopamine levels. That approach could be extended to other systems, Golubitsky said, although further research is needed to say for sure. That research is already underway, he said.

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