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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2008 May;97(1):79-114. Epub 2007 Oct 2.

Scale relativity theory and integrative systems biology: 1. Founding principles and scale laws.

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Functional Genomics and Systems Biology for Health, UMR 7091-LGN, CNRS/Pierre & Marie Curie University-Paris VI, 7 rue Guy Moquet-BP 8, 94801 Villejuif Cedex, France.


In these two companion papers, we provide an overview and a brief history of the multiple roots, current developments and recent advances of integrative systems biology and identify multiscale integration as its grand challenge. Then we introduce the fundamental principles and the successive steps that have been followed in the construction of the scale relativity theory, and discuss how scale laws of increasing complexity can be used to model and understand the behaviour of complex biological systems. In scale relativity theory, the geometry of space is considered to be continuous but non-differentiable, therefore fractal (i.e., explicitly scale-dependent). One writes the equations of motion in such a space as geodesics equations, under the constraint of the principle of relativity of all scales in nature. To this purpose, covariant derivatives are constructed that implement the various effects of the non-differentiable and fractal geometry. In this first review paper, the scale laws that describe the new dependence on resolutions of physical quantities are obtained as solutions of differential equations acting in the scale space. This leads to several possible levels of description for these laws, from the simplest scale invariant laws to generalized laws with variable fractal dimensions. Initial applications of these laws to the study of species evolution, embryogenesis and cell confinement are discussed.

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