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Semin Cancer Biol. 2011 Jun;21(3):156-64. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2011.06.001. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

Outline of a concept for organismic systems biology.

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Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Morphology, Center for Biomedical Education and Research, University of Witten/Herdecke, Stockumer Strasse, Germany.


For several decades experimental biology and medicine have both been accompanied by a dichotomy between reductionistic and anti-reductionistic approaches. In the present paper it is proposed that this dichotomy can be overcome if it is accepted that research on different organizational levels of the organism is necessary. The relevance of such an approach becomes much clearer using an appropriate concept of the organism. The proposed concept is called "organismic systems biology" and is a compilation of three related theories, which are basically in line with considerations of many other organismic thinkers. However, it is argued, that this integrated concept is able to clarify basic assumptions of organismic. The theories are: the systems approach of Paul Weiss, the developmental systems theory and the theory of increasing autonomy in evolution. The hypothesis is that the different levels of organismic functions, which are described by these theories, are necessarily interrelated, thus generating the autonomy of the organism. This principle of interrelation needs to be regarded in scientific reasoning and can be crucial for solving many medical problems.

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