editors, Werner Dubitzky ... [et al.]
This Encyclopedia is not merely a collection of relevant knowledge items from the field of biology, mathematics, information and communication technology (ICT) and related fields. Instead, the Encyclopedia derives its raison d'etre and scope from a modern perspective of how complex biological phenomena should be studied. This view is inspired by the methodologies from (complex) systems science, which have been applied to the study of complex natural systems in many areas. Typical properties of such complex systems include system dynamics, emergence of higher-level structure, behavior and function as a result of the interaction of the many simple parts of a system, non-linearity, bistability, feedback loops, openness, memory, nested organization of constituent elements, and scale-freeness (many local and few global interactions). Systems biology combines methodologies from mathematics, ICT and biology with the aim of understanding biological systems as systems.
This involves the understanding of the Structures of a biological system, that is the components of the system and their structural relationships; The dynamic behaviors of a system and their characteristics under different conditions and environments; Mechanisms controlling the states and behaviors of a systems; and Principles and methods by which systems with desired properties can be designed and constructed (synthetic biology). The unified approach to systems biology consists of the application of experimental, mathematical, and computer-based modeling and analysis techniques to the study of biological organisms at all levels of biological organization, from molecules, organelles, cells, tissues to organs, and even to entire organisms, populations and environments. Within this inter-disciplinary framework, systems biology studies may be recognized as such as they are likely to involve one or more of the characteristics listed below. A global rather than local analysis or a holistic rather than reductionistic view. This refers to the attempt of systems biology to capture and analyze a large number of aspects of a biological system simultaneously.
This is in contrast with the conventional approach in which one or very few aspects (e.g., gene, protein) are studied at a time. The simultaneous study of different levels of biological organization, e.g., genome and transcriptome, or genome and organelles. The investigation of biological networks, including gene-regulatory networks, protein interaction networks, signaling networks, metabolic networks, reaction-pathway networks, and so on. The explicit incorporation of time to capture and analyze the dynamic behavior and stimuli-response patterns of biological systems and processes. The use of computational means to capture and integrate the data of and to model and simulate biological processes and systems.