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V I E W P O I N T Biological Networks: The Tinkerer as an Engineer

Summary: V I E W P O I N T
Biological Networks: The Tinkerer as an Engineer
U. Alon
This viewpoint comments on recent advances in understanding the design principles
of biological networks. It highlights the surprising discovery of "good-engineering"
principles in biochemical circuitry that evolved by random tinkering.
Franc¸ois Jacob pictured evolution as a tink-
erer, not an engineer (1). Engineers and tink-
erers arrive at their solutions by very different
routes. Rather than planning structures in ad-
vance and drawing up blueprints (as an engi-
neer would), evolution as a tinkerer works
with odds and ends, assembling interactions
until they are good enough to work. It is
therefore wondrous that the solutions found
by evolution have much in common with
good engineering design (2). This Viewpoint
comments on recent advances in understand-
ing biological networks using concepts from


Source: Alon, Uri - Departments of Molecular Cell Biology & Physics of Complex Systems, Weizmann Institute of Science


Collections: Biology and Medicine