Complex systems theory is concerned with identifying and characterizing common design elements that are observed across diverse natural, technological and social complex systems. Systems biology, a more holistic approach to study molecules and cells in biology, has advanced rapidly in the past two decades. However, not much appreciation has been granted to the realization that the human cell is an exemplary complex system. Here, I outline general design principles identified in many complex systems, and then describe the human cell as a prototypical complex system. Considering concepts of complex systems theory in systems biology can illuminate our overall understanding of normal cell physiology and the alterations that lead to human disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170391
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number134
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Agents
  • Complexity
  • Evolution


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