Homeostasis: The Dynamic Self-Regulatory Process that Maintains Health and Buffers Against Disease
Homeostasis, as currently defined, is a self-regulating process by which biological (or mechanical) systems maintain stability while adjusting to changing conditions. This concept explains how an organism can maintain more or less constant internal conditions that allow it to survive in the face of a changing and often hostile external environment. Our awareness of homeostasis has slowly emerged over the centuries and has become the central tenet of physiology. If one does not understand this self-regulating process, then it is not possible to comprehend fully the function of the body in health and disease. The disruption of homeostatic mechanisms is what leads to disease, and effective therapy must be directed toward re-establishing these homeostatic conditions, working with rather than against nature. The purpose of this essay is to describe the evolution of our understanding of homeostasis and the role of physiological regulation and dysregulation in health and disease.
KeywordsEngine Speed Internal Environment Internal Stability Negative Feedback Regulation Homeostatic Regulation
Portions of this essay appeared in a much condensed form and have been included with the permission of the author .
- 2.Freeman K. Ancilla to the pre-socratic philosophers: a complete translation of the Fragments Diels Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press; 1948. Paperback edition 1983, p. 40.Google Scholar
- 3.Chadwick J, Mann WN. The medical works of Hippocrates: a new translation from the original Greek made especially for English readers. Oxford: Blackwell; 1950. p. 207.Google Scholar
- 4.Jones WHS (translator). Hippocrates Vol II: Prognostics. Loeb Classical Library No 148. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Breaths – page 219 (par. 1); 1923.Google Scholar
- 5.Hall TS. History of general physiology: 600 B.C. to A.D. 1900, vol. I from pre-socratic times to the enlightenment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1975.Google Scholar
- 6.Harvey W. In: Keynes G, editor. The anatomical exercises: De Motu Cordis and De Circulatione Saguinis in english translation. New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.; 1995.Google Scholar
- 9.Bernard C. Introduction à l’étude de la Médecine Expérimentale. Paris: J.B. Baillière et Fils; 1865 (English Translation by Greene HC, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, NY, 1957).Google Scholar
- 11.Richet CR, editor. Dictionnaire de Physiologie, vol. 4. Paris: F. Alcan; 1900. p. 721.Google Scholar
- 12.Cannon WB. The wisdom of the body, revised and enlarged edition (first published 1939). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.; 1963.Google Scholar
- 13.Forrester JW. Principles of systems. 2nd preliminary ed. Cambridge, MA: Wright-Allen Press., Inc.; 1976.Google Scholar
- 14.Landels JG. Engineering in the ancient world, revised edition (first pulbished1978, revised 2000). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press; 2000.Google Scholar
- 15.Rosen W. The most powerful idea in the world: a story of steam, industry, and invention. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.; 2010.Google Scholar
- 16.Maxwell JC. On governors. Proc Roy Soc. 1868;16:270–83.Google Scholar
- 17.Black HS. Stabilized feedback amplifiers. Electr Eng. 1934;53:114–20.Google Scholar
- 24.Opie I, Opie P, editors. The oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1997.Google Scholar
- 25.Bacon F (1620) In: Jardine L, Silverstone M, editors. The new organon. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 2000.Google Scholar
- 26.Descartes R. Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and seeking truth in science; 1637 (Original Title in French: Discours de la méthode pour bien conduire sa raison et chercher la vérité dans les sciences]. Available online as part of the Project Gutenberg at http://www.literature.org/authors/descartes-rene/reason-discourse/chapter-02.html.
- 27.Noble D. The music of life: biology beyond genes. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2006.Google Scholar
- 28.Billman GE. The grand challenge of physiology: to integrate function from molecules to man. Front Physiol. 1:5, 2010. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2010.00005. published 27 April 2010. The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis