The use of the term network is more and more widespread in all fields of biology. It evokes a systemic approach to biological problems able to overcome the evident limitations of the strict reductionism of the past twenty years. The expectations produced by taking into considerations not only the single elements but even the intermingled web of links connecting different parts of biological entities, are huge. Nevertheless, we believe the lack of consciousness that networks, beside their biological likelihood, are modeling tools and not real entities, could be detrimental to the exploitation of the full potential of this paradigm. In this mini review the basic concepts of network analysis are presented, together with the relationships linking network approach to other more established modeling tools as multivariate data analysis and differential equations. Some applications of network based modeling of different biological phenomena are reported as well and the specific advantages of adopting such strategies are stressed together with the inescapable limitations.
Keywords: Systems biology, metabolomics, genomics, computational biology
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