With the increasing flow of biological data there is a growing demand for mathematical tools whereby essential aspects of complex causal dynamic models can be captured and detected by simpler mathematical models without sacrificing too much of the realism provided by the original ones. Given the presence of a time scale hierarchy, singular perturbation techniques represent an elegant method for making such minimised mathematical representations. Any reduction of a complex model by singular perturbation methods is a targeted reduction by the fact that one has to pick certain mechanisms, processes or aspects thought to be essential in a given explanatory context. Here we illustrate how such a targeted reduction of a complex model of melanogenesis in mammals recently developed by the authors provides a way to improve the understanding of how the melanogenic system may behave in a switch-like manner between production of the two major types of melanins. The reduced model is shown by numerical means to be in good quantitative agreement with the original model. Furthermore, it is shown how the reduced model discloses hidden robustness features of the full model, and how the making of a reduced model represents an efficient analytical sensitivity analysis. In addition to yielding new insights concerning the melanogenic system, the paper provides an illustration of a protocol that could be followed to make validated simplifications of complex biological models possessing time scale hierarchies. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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