Principle of Systems Biology illustrated using the Virtual Heart

author: Denis Noble, Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics, University of Oxford
published: Nov. 20, 2007,   recorded: October 2007,   views: 452254


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Highest systems property:

“The living organism does not really exist in the milieu extérieur but in the liquid milieu intérieur … a complex organism should be looked upon as an assemblage of simple organisms … that live in the liquid milieu intérieur.”

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 alex finck, January 31, 2008 at 3:41 p.m.:

Very good and refreshing!

The questions at the end are worth listening. The lecture is very philosophical but it makes a point.

Comment2 alejandro , October 6, 2009 at 8:08 p.m.:

Great lecture. I like his point on metaphors. However, I find funny how he says that non-dualistic philosophies (no right and wrong) are right.

Comment3 Mike Tones, October 24, 2009 at 9:24 p.m.:

Interesting critique of Richard Dawkins' genecentric view of Biology. I think it is possible that because Dawkins is aiming at a mass audience he adopts metaphor and perhaps takes it beyond the point where it is truly valid for the sake of not confusing the lay person. Noble is targeting a much more sophisticated audience and so doesn't have to compromise the complexity. Another way of viewing Noble's position is that he is trying to reassert the status of Physiology as a discipline after it has suffered because of the explosion in molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics etc. He is completely correct that the end point of the reductionist approach has to be able to recreate the system in model form. If you can do that and replicate all of its behaviours this is the only way you can know that you truly understand it. This is the future of physiology - to integrate all of the molecular and cellular information back to the organ (and ultimately whole body) level.

Comment4 Denis Noble, March 1, 2010 at 2:52 a.m.:

This lecture begins by noting that we do not yet really know what Systems Biology is. I agree with the following remark:

"You are probably running out of patience for some definition of systems biology. In any case, I do not think the explicit definition of systems biology should come from me but should await the words of the first great modern systems biologist. She or he is probably among us now." (Marc Kirschner, Harvard University, 2005, Cell, 121, 503-504).

We are all feeling our way in the face of the extreme complexity of nature and the daunting task of unraveling her secrets.

Comment5 Elizabeth Liddle, August 18, 2012 at 9:05 p.m.:

I love this lecture. I've listened to it many times, have the book, and recommend it to countless people.

Thank you!

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Comment8 strike force kitty 2, July 5, 2019 at 5:31 a.m.:

Now I know more information about a complex creature that should be seen as a collection of simple organisms living in liquid water.

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When I am in a medical college I also use to listen to these lectures from our respected teachers. The also explains things really a good way so we understand it.

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Comment37 James Brown, December 7, 2021 at 12:15 p.m.:

Thanks for this post! Another way to look at Noble's perspective is that he is attempting to reestablish Physiology as a subject after it has suffered as a result of the growth in molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, and so on. He is entirely accurate in stating that the final goal of the reductionist approach must be the ability to replicate the system in model form. If you can accomplish that and repeat all of its behaviors, you will know that you actually understand it. The integration of all molecular and cellular information back to the organ (and eventually whole body) level is the future of physiology.

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What a fantastic concept! Thank you for writing this article! Another way to look at Noble's point of view is that he is striving to revive Physiology as a discipline after it has suffered as a result of advances in molecular biology, genomics, bioinformatics, and other fields. He is completely correct in arguing that the reductionist approach's ultimate objective must be the capacity to model the system. If you can do that and replicate all of the actions, you'll know you've grasped the concept.

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