Authors: Pooja Yadav
The concepts of reductionism and holism dates back to the time when true value of science and scientific basis of concepts gained recognition. Reductionism believes in starting from individual components and then moving towards total conduct of the system. On the other hand, holism favours the consolidated nature of systems, to view it as a discrete entity. The concept of holism can be traced back, from the Aristotle's Metaphysica which says "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts". Science finds its roots in reductionism right from its infancy. Reductionist thinking still holds a significant influence on science, including biology, especially after the rise of molecular biology which interpreted life being guided by molecular means including heredity. Molecular biology is grounded in reductionist views wherein complexity of biological systems is explicated in terms of the physicochemical properties of the individual components. The reductionist understanding, finds its roots, way back in the exemplary the one-gene one-polypeptide hypothesis of Beadle and Tatum, who actually demonstrated the direct relationship of the genotype to the phenotype at the molecular level.
Although as far as the interpretation of the data into meaningful information is concerned, bioinformatics has been crucial in every aspect of omics based research to manage various types of genome-scale datasets efficiently and extract valuable knowledge. However, with the passage of time, the limitations of the reductionist molecular approach have become increasingly evident. It became evident that biological systems cannot be explained only at the genetic level. Instead they should be understood as complex systems resulting from dynamic interactions of different components at different levels, each individually functioning as wholes, which eventually control the phenotype. Complex systems exist at different levels of biological organization ranging from the subatomic realm to individual organisms to whole populations and beyond. Hence a need arose for an integrative framework, which provides a holistic understanding of the biological systems. This new realm of science, in the postreductionist era, is called systems biology.
Systems biology is an approach by which a system of interacting units is analysed as a whole rather than by analysing its individual constituents separately. Systems biology has actually enabled the maturation of science from a data collection enterprise to an explanatory endeavour
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PhD Research scholar (PBG)