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Systems concept which entails automatic reproduction and maintenance

The autopoietic theory was put forth by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela and Ricardo B. Uribe. Autopoiesis describes how living cells work from a systemic viewpoint focusing on the following three facts:

  1. An autopoietic system is well-defined self-bounded structure in a physical world.
  2. An autopoietic system has chemical components, that are continuously produced and destroyed by a network of processes, at the expense of energy extracted from the environment.
  3. An autopoietic system is capable of maintaining an autopoietic state adaptively in response to perturbations originated in the environment and it is coupled to it.

From Stano, P. Life (2019) 9(1), 3. Side b was originally published in Stano, P. Syst. Synth. Bio. (2010) 4, 149-156.

The above figure from Stanos (2019) shows the principles of autopoietic organization on the left (a). The “structural coupling” with the environment means that the system has established and can possibly evolve its own organization through dynamic coupling with its environment. The right side (b) represents minimal autopoietic chemical systems, generated in the early 1990s that employ micelles, reverse micelles and vesicles based on fatty acids. The autopoietic dynamics of growth and division are shown.


May 1974
Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model

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