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Research Fellows Directory

Vandana Ravindran

Ms Vandana Ravindran

Research Fellow


University of Glasgow

Research summary

My area of research focuses on modelling biological systems as collections of interactions. I study underlying properties using principles of complex networks. The engineering metaphor of signaling and communication has been of key value in appreciating the complex regulatory mechanisms that living cells have evolved. Biological molecules can be considered to be involved in information transfer and processing through mechanisms such as allostery. Such biochemical ‘circuits’, similar to their engineering counterparts, are performing computational tasks such as signal amplification, integration and information storage. The electronic circuit metaphor for understanding the cell will be very helpful in our attempts to understand the complex web of regulatory mechanisms that encode functions in living cells. Here the metaphor is extended beyond modeling the cellular processes to controllability of cell’s regulatory network, and consider its therapeutic implications for disease control. My work earlier was a step towards application of control theory in identifying key regulators of cancer. For example,showing the importance of certain nodes from a control perspective to be key in regulating disease. The application of an engineering perspective for understanding biological systems demonstrates the utility of control theory for analysis of disease networks with therapeutic implications. We intend to extend this theory to study viral infection like HIV-1 to understand how a virus efficiently hijacks the host system and gains control over it. To replicate viruses use a set of highly specific molecular interactions that act in a coordinated manner to exploit the host cellular system. We propose to use the mathematical approach control theory applied to networks as a tool to investigate the molecular aspects of viral infection and replication. This will involve specific emphasis on studying mechanisms of virus entry, viral-host interactions, host response and virulence by modelling these as networks of molecular interactions. The investigation of factors required for infection provides a foundation for the development of effective means to prevent and combat disease. Previous studies have concentrated on identifying hubs as viral targets without appreciating the complexity of control a virus must exert over the host system. Our aim is to identify the critical cellular pathways and different protein-protein interaction that facilitate this ‘hijacking’ by the virus, and can be leveraged as potential therapeutic targets.

Grants awarded

Modelling viral-host molecular interactions using control theory

Scheme: Newton International Fellowships

Dates: Mar 2018 - Mar 2020

Value: £91,192.50