About this Research Topic
Organisms can be viewed as self-maintained and self-regulated hierarchically organized entities at different levels of complexity. Therefore, beyond their isolated functional characteristics, the ways the diverse components of an organism are spatially and temporally structured and interconnected determine its functional behavior as a whole (and for its parts). However, the classical “layer cake” view of stratified levels of organization, from molecules to organisms interacting with their environmental conditions, is challenged. Furthermore, the concept of the genome understood as a kind of instructional algorithm that determines the organization of biological systems is seriously compromised. This also goes for regulatory mechanisms being conceived as being managed by centralized controllers.
In actuality, multilevel dynamic interactions between the subunits of an organism are critical determinants that shape its structural organization and its capacity to adjust to changing internal and external conditions. Moreover, the organization of the organism generates local and global constraints that determine these interactions. This complexity has resulted in the emergence of new physiological approaches using concepts such as self-organization, soft organization, modularity, decentralized controls, etc. These concepts are useful tools for the investigation of physiological and pathological phenomena.
The analysis of these structural-functional relationships, beyond the identification of the molecular interactors involved, requires not only in vivo and in vitro investigation but biophysical and computational approaches as well. Indeed, this research is not only a scientific question but is also epistemological and philosophical issue. In fact, many elements currently require clarification. This includes the meaning of concepts such as “self-organization” and “level of complexity”, the epistemic value of physical approaches and their theoretical models, as well as their subsequent explanatory significance. We also require clarity on the way such notions and methodologies impact our conception of how organisms achieve their functional capacities (or fail to) and how therapeutic strategies can be designed.
This Research Topic focuses on multidisciplinary examples of experimental, theoretical and/or philosophical approaches applied to the investigation of multilevel relationships between the organization and functional capacities in organisms. We will also focus on philosophical studies of the general epistemological meaning of underlying concepts, as far as they are grounded on or illustrated by precise biological examples.
The present Research Topic welcomes review papers or original research articles on the following research fields in particular:
- Cell morphology and spatial organization, polarity, and oriented motility.
- Embryonic and post-embryonic morphogenesis.
- Biomechanical and thermodynamical constraints generating/generated by spatial organization.
- Spatiotemporal dynamics of regulatory mechanisms, homeostasis, and the adjustment to changing conditions of biological functions.
- Diseases and the alteration of organizational patterns, along with possible therapeutic strategies.
Keywords: structure, network, function, self-organisation, systems
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