What is it about?

E = m c^2 is Einstein's landmark equation that says Energy scales with mass and the speed of light squared. Examples of characteristic scaling pervade science and are foundational for predictive science. We discovered that such characteristic scaling relationships also exist between some genes expressed in many tissues and tumors. We focused on a structural factor in the nucleus, called lamin-B1, and the main structural factor outside cells, called collagen-1, which builds up fibers and fibrosis after wounding. Genes that scale with these also prove useful for predicting cancer patient survival.

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Why is it important?

Data, data, data is being generated at very high rates as gene lists and gene sets, but quantitative understanding and quantitative predictions require us to move beyond correlations -- if possible. Universal scaling in large datasets is possible, we show, and should make us all think more quantitatively about regulation at the gene and protein levels.


Writing this article was a great pleasure as it has a diverse sets of co-authors, from medical researchers to theoretical physicists and students developing completely new ways of thinking. This article also led to some surprising predictions about cancer survival, especially in relation to cancer as a wound that doesn't heal.

Dennis Discher
University of Pennsylvania

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This page is a summary of: Scaling concepts in ‘omics: Nuclear lamin-B scales with tumor growth and often predicts poor prognosis, unlike fibrosis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2112940118.
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