Systems Biology, Autopoiesis, Network Theory
Pp. 641-665 (25)
Robert E. Smith
In systems biology, the basic, fundamental unit is the cell, not the atoms and
molecules in the cell. Many new properties emerge when atoms, molecules and ions are
organized in a living cell.
The functions of a cell do not depend on just the properties of the individual molecules,
but also their interaction. Autopoiesis means self-production. It is a network of
production processes, in which the function of each component is to participate in the
production or transformation of itself and also the other components in the network. The
production processes are circular. Life is a cyclic process that produces the components
of a living system.
Based on the autopoietic theory of life, the biosphere of Earth is often considered as a
living system. Bacteria can be taken as the catalysts that maintain the atmosphere in its
present state, far from equilibrium, but stable, like homeostasis in a cell, organ or
organism. Networks permeate living systems. Living systems and the internet are
examples of a type of network called a scale-free network. These networks are
dominated by a few well-connected nodes, called hubs. Most nodes in the network have
a few connections, but a small number of nodes has a seemingly unlimited number of
connections. In the scale-free network that is in living cells, there are many levels of
organization. Each of them can be viewed as a network. There is a network of genes, a
metabolic network, a regulatory network and a cellular network.
Systems biology, autopoiesis, Gaia, scale-free network, nodes, hubs.
Adjunct Assistant Professor Park University and Consultant Science Advisor United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) USA