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Erwin Schroedinger, Francis Crick and epigenetic stability

DOI: 10.1186/1745-6150-3-15

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This article was reviewed by Eugene Koonin, Vlatko Vedral (nominated by Sergei Maslov) and Eric Karsenti (nominated by Arcady Mushegian). For the full reviews, please go to the Reviewers' Comments section.'Molecular biology has been successful largely because it has concentrated on the type of problem [...] that can be attacked by isolating a small part of a biological system'F. Crick, 'Molecular Biology in the Year 2000'"Living matter, while not eluding the 'laws of physics' as established up to date, is likely to involve 'other laws of physics'... It is, in my opinion, nothing else than the principle of quantum theory over again"E. Schroedinger, 'What is Life?'In one of the most influential books on science in 20th century, 'What is Life?', Erwin Schroedinger, a founder of Quantum Mechanics, asked what physical principles govern the stability of biological systems. He suggested that the physics of the covalent bond holds the key to the secret of heredity and popularized the idea of DNA representing a molecular code-script for the genetic makeup of an organism. The book inspired the collaboration between Crick and Watson and led to the identification of genetic information as the sequence of bases in DNA, replicating via complementary base-base recognition.The recent surge of interest in 'all things epigenetic' shows that the issue of stability, let alone heredity, of biological systems is far more complex than one could envision half a century ago. While recognizing the role of DNA sequence as the dominant contributor to the persistence of biological order, the emerging view offers a richer spectrum of additional factors that contribute to biological organization in a manner somewhat independent from DNA. A large subset of these factors, summed up under the name of epigenetic information, is responsible for the maintenance of differentiated cell types in development, plays an important role in cancer and has been making headlines lately as the culprit responsible

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