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Information and Living SystemsPhilosophical and Scientific Perspectives$
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George Terzis and Robert Arp

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780262201742

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262201742.001.0001

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Problem Solving in the Life Cycles of Multicellular Organisms: Immunology and Cancer

Problem Solving in the Life Cycles of Multicellular Organisms: Immunology and Cancer

Chapter:
(p.131) 5 Problem Solving in the Life Cycles of Multicellular Organisms: Immunology and Cancer
Source:
Information and Living Systems
Author(s):

Niall Shanks

Rebecca A. Pyles

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262201742.003.0006

A significant portion of this chapter discusses the important aspects of the mechanisms and function of information processing in the vertebrate immune system. The main goal of the chapter is the incorporation of our current understanding of information processing and problem solving in biological systems into an evolutionary perspective. Two detailed case studies are presented to this effect; first is adaptive immunity, whereby the immune system has to process information to solve problems in the face of host–parasite coevolution; and second, the dynamics of cancer, whereby lineages of cancer cells evolve adaptations in a complex and hostile biotic environment, ultimately finding ways to solve problems in the face of immunological assault. The chapter concludes with a discussion of why the cases discussed here require a critical reevaluation of the typical accounts of the relationship between evolutionary biology and mechanistic biology.

Keywords:   information processing, vertebrate immune system, problem solving, evolutionary perspective, adaptive immunity, dynamics of cancer, evolutionary biology, mechanistic biology

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