Cellular processes span a huge range of length and time scales from the molecular to the near-macroscopic. Understanding how effects on one scale influence, and are themselves influenced by, those on lower and higher scales is a critical issue for the construction of models in Systems Biology. Advances in computing hardware and software now allow explicit simulation of some aspects of cellular dynamics close to the molecular scale. Vesicle fusion is one example of such a process. Experiments, however, typically probe cellular behavior from the molecular scale up to microns. Standard particle-based simulation techniques cannot capture such a broad range. Consequently, at long length scales, models have often been of the Mass Action variety, in which molecular constituents are represented by density fields that vary continuously in space and time, rather than involving discrete molecules. But these models struggle to represent processes that are localized in space and time or involve the transport of material through a crowded environment. A novel class of mesoscopic simulation techniques are now able to span length and time scales from nanometers to microns for hundreds of microseconds, and may soon be coupled to Mass Action models allowing the parameters in such models to be continuously tuned according to the finer resolution simulation. This will help realize the goal of a computational cellular simulation that is able to capture the dynamics of membrane-associated processes such as exocytosis from pancreatic β cells.
Betasys - Systems Biology of Regulated Exocytosis in Pancreatic Beta-cells, 2010