Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Defining Physiology

Kudos to Mael Lemoine and Thomas Pradeu who recently published a paper in Physiology that attempted to define physiology’s place in modern science.

Historically, physiology has held importance as a fundamental discipline on which other disciplines such as medicine and biological sciences were built. As such, the field of physiology has given birth to several modern disciplines including immunology, endocrinology, neuroscience and of course, the wave of “omics” research.

Lemoine and Pradeu argue that physiology may be defined in terms of:

  • its method – an integrative approach in search of explanations for how organisms function in health and disease

This is in contrast to newer fields, such as systems biology and computer modeling, which provide explanations without considering function or attempt to predict and control function without seeking explanations.

  • its object – normal function vs pathological; generalized concepts such as homeostasis; integrity of organisms

I especially liked the figure they put together to help identify where physiology fits in as a science of explanation:

phy0041804310001

Source:

Lemoine M, Pradeu T. Dissecting the Meanings of “Physiology” to Assess the Vitality of the Discipline. Physiology. 33(4): 236-245, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1152/physiol.00015.2018

Categories: Comparative Physiology

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