PerspectiveSystems Biology

Amoeba-Inspired Network Design

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Science  22 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5964, pp. 419-420
DOI: 10.1126/science.1185570

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The ability to self-optimize is one of the fundamental properties of living organisms. Adaptive self-optimization in the course of biological evolution is an obvious phenomenon, although it occurs on a time scale of millions of years. On page 439 of this issue, Tero et al. (1) describe a model system where self-optimization of cell morphology in response to a chosen experimental situation can be directly observed and mathematically quantified as it occurs on a time scale of hours to a few days. These living cells display adaptive behavior of the sort that may be desired for scalable, multicomponent networks that are supposed to function robustly in the absence of central control mechanisms. Self-organization, self-optimization, and self-repair as it naturally occurs in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum are capabilities that may be required for technological systems such as mobile communication networks or networks of dynamically connected computational devices.