Systems Biology: Did we know it all along?

  • Hans V. WesterhoffEmail author
  • Lilia Alberghina
Part of the Topics in Current Genetics book series (TCG, volume 13)


It is often suggested that Systems Biology is nothing new, or that it is irrelevant. Its central paradigm, i.e. that much of biological function arises from the interactions of macromolecules, is not generally appreciated. We here contend that much like molecular biology in its past, Systems Biology is new and old at the same time. It looks in a new way and with new and improved reincarnations of existing and new technologies at scientific issues that the existing disciplines describe but do not resolve. Its main focus is to understand in quantitative, predictable ways the regulation of complex cellular pathways and of intercellular communication so as to shed light on complex biological functions (e.g. metabolism, cell signaling, cell cycle, apoptosis, differentiation, and transformation). It is for the lack of achieving this understanding of living systems that the existing paradigms for biomedical research fail for the majority of diseases on the Northern hemisphere. Systems Biology appears appropriate for these complex and multifactorial diseases.

But of course it is not for us to define what Systems Biology is or should be. Yet, it is important that there be an end to suggestions that Systems Biology is vague or can be anything. As is molecular biology, Systems Biology is rich, wide, and diverse, not vague: most aspects of biology and of mathematical modeling are not part of Systems Biology. This book serves to define this rich and heterogeneous Systems Biology ’bottom up’, i.e., by having systems biologists themselves define it.


Molecular Biology System Biology Living System Multifactorial Disease Grand Challenge 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BioCentrum Amsterdam, Mathematical Biochemistry, University of Amsterdam and Molecular Cell Physiology, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Free University, De Boelelaan 1087, NL-1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre, Department of Systems Biology 
  2. 2.Dept. of Biotechnology and Biosciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, Piazza della Scienza 2, 20126 MilanoItaly

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