Biology coming full circle: joining the whole and the parts.

Wikswo JP, Porter AP
Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2015 240 (1): 3-7

PMID: 25583953 · PMCID: PMC4391629 · DOI:10.1177/1535370214564534

The new cover of Experimental Biology and Medicine features the hermeneutic circle of biology, a concept we have adapted from the hermeneutic principle that one understands the whole only in terms of each part and the parts only in terms of the whole. Our hermeneutic circle summarizes the course of experimental biology through 2500 years of the achievements of reductionist research (understanding the parts), which culminates in our ability to rapidly sequence the genome. Rather than returning along the same path in a constructionist approach that simply builds upon this knowledge, but in reverse, an alternative is to close the circle with synthetic constructions that seek to integrate the full complexity of biological and physiological systems (understanding the whole), of which organs-on-chips are one example. This closing of the circle cannot be a comprehensively accurate representation of biology, but it can be a synthetic one that effectively defines particular biological subsystems. The illustration of the hermeneutic circle of biology is also intended to suggest both the multiple cycles that may be required to reach such a synthesis and the expansion of the circle in an outward spiral as knowledge increases. Our commentary explains the symbolism of the new cover in a philosophical and scientific discussion.

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MeSH Terms (4)

Animals Humans Molecular Biology Systems Biology

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