Statistical Mechanical Approaches to Biology and Medicine

Thomas Chou (August 30, 2012)

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I will present a number of problems in macromolecular cellular, and tissue level biology that can be modeled using approaches from statistical physics, stochastic processes, and membrane mechanics. First, I will consider a simple model of nucleosome positioning that predicts the coverage of DNA by histones. At the cellular level, the evolution of cell populations can be described by nonequilibrium statistical mechanical models such as the zero-range process, with birth and death. We have applied this type of model to describe cancer progression. Finally, at the tissue level, basic membrane mechanics will be used to a mathematical framework for retinal detachments. These examples are meant to highlight the versatility of using basic paradigms from condensed matter and statistical physics to distill complex problems in cell biology and physiology.