New Paper Published in Biology & Philosophy: Bich, L., Mossio, M., Ruiz-Mirazo, K. & Moreno, A. “Biological Regulation: Controlling the System from Within”

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Biological regulation: controlling the system from within


Biological regulation is what allows an organism to handle the effects of a perturbation, modulating its own constitutive dynamics in response to particular changes in internal and external conditions. With the central focus of analysis on the case of minimal living systems, we argue that regulation consists in a specific form of second-order control, exerted over the core (constitutive) regime of production and maintenance of the components that actually put together the organism. The main argument is that regulation requires a distinctive architecture of functional relationships, and specifically the action of a dedicated subsystem whose activity is dynamically decoupled from that of the constitutive regime. We distinguish between two major ways in which control mechanisms contribute to the maintenance of a biological organisation in response to internal and external perturbations: dynamic stability and regulation. Based on this distinction an explicit definition and a set of organisational requirements for regulation are provided, and thoroughly illustrated through the examples of bacterial chemotaxis and the lac-operon. The analysis enables us to mark out the differences between regulation and closely related concepts such as feedback, robustness and homeostasis.

Published in Biology & Philosophy

The final publication is available at Springer via:

the preprint is available here

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  • "To say that a system is complex […] is to say that we can describe the same system in a variety of distinct ways […]. Therefore a system is simple to the extent that a single description suffices to account for our interaction with the system; it is complex to the extent that it fails to be true." (Robert Rosen, 1978)
  • “Complexity is not an intrinsic property of a system nor of a system description. Rather, it arises from the number of ways in which we are able to interact with the system. Thus, complexity is a function not only of the system’s interactive capabilities, but of our own”
    (Robert Rosen, 1985)

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