Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Engineer's view of biological systems

A recent article in PLoS Biology takes a brief look at "an engineer's view of biology."

In this essay, the authors clearly summarize what they see as the advantages of looking at biological systems through the lens of engineered systems, in order to better understand biology. They further contend that simple "cartoon" conceptions of biological systems can be as useful as more complicated mathematical modeling (that is, both have their places).

Of course, this idea of "an engineered system" as an analogy is usually one of the first principles that we introduce to our students in an A&P course: feedback control systems that maintain homeostatic balance.

We introduce terms like variable, disturbance, sensor, set point, integrator, effector, and so on as biological terms . . . further explaining that the terms (as well as the concepts) are borrowed directly from engineering.

Take a look at this recent article to deepen your understanding of what that really means:

Biological Systems from an Engineer's Point of View
Reeves GT, Fraser SE
PLoS Biology
Vol. 7, No. 1, e21

For more FREE journals like PLoS Biology, see my growing listing at The A&P Professor website.

No comments:

Post a Comment