The frontier of biology and medicine is defined by our ability to decipher the mechanisms that underlie basic phenomena. These phenomena may include cell motility and migration, cell division, cell reprogramming, and cell communication that may be manifested in a wide range of questions in development and disease. Thus, examples from stem cell, developmental, neural, and cancer biology have the potential to allow examination of basic biological processes within the context of real, in vivo phenomena. However, a major challenge has been the lack of a means to identify biologically tractable problems and link these problems to applications-oriented experts from imaging and mathematics.
The rate at which this frontier advances depends, at least in part, on how fast technology evolves and on how data is interpreted and translated into a better understanding of basic mechanisms. In the past 10 years, dramatic advances in imaging technology and mathematics have provided new tools and models for discovery that have enabled new observations and hypotheses to be tested. These tools, which are often designed for general applications, find their way into the hands of biologists who then see ways to use them. In some cases, specific mathematical models and applications drive innovations. The mathematical methods involved include PDEs, moving boundary value problems, dynamic geometric changes, optimal transport, stochastic modeling, and the analysis of large data sets. Advances in imaging technology that will be discussed include serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, superresolution microscopy, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based activity biosensors, detection of forces in cells and tissue, multispectral and multiphoton deep tissue imaging, and fluorescence light-sheet microscopy.
The goal of this workshop is to encourage biologiststo describe tough questions and to jointly think about approaches that inspire new developments and interdisciplinary research collaborations. We plan to do this by combining input and discussion from experts in imaging technology and mathematics with cell, developmental and cancer biologists that share a passion for solving the riddles that underlie complex phenomena in dynamic living systems. We suggest that both groups of participants blend what is technically possible with what exists only in dream space, with the hope that together we will learn something new and be stimulated to explore new ways to visualize, model and better understand complex processes.