Sloan Kettering molecular biologist argues that this may not be semantics. What if that’s what they are actually doing, in effect? One wonders, how would it affect cancer treatment?
Abstract: Living organisms must maintain proper regulation including defense and healing. Life-threatening problems may be caused by pathogens or an organism’s own cells’ deficiency or hyperactivity, in cancer or auto-immunity. Life evolved solutions to these problems that can be conceptualized through the lens of information security, which is a well-developed field in computer science. Here I argue that taking an information security view of cell biology is not merely semantics, but useful to explain features of cell signaling and regulation. It also offers a conduit for cross-fertilization of advanced ideas from computer science, and the potential for biology to inform computer science.
First, I consider whether cells use passwords, i.e., precise initiation sequences that are required for subsequent signals to have any effect, by analyzing chromatin regulation and cellular reprogramming. Second, I consider whether cells use the more advanced security feature of encryption. Encryption could benefit cells by making it more difficult for pathogens to hijack cell networks. Because the ‘language’ of cell signaling is unknown, i.e., similar to an alien language detected by SETI, I use information theory to consider the general case of how non-randomness filters can be used to recognize (1) that a data stream encodes a language, rather than noise, and (2) quantitative criteria for whether an unknown language is encrypted. This leads to the result that an unknown language is encrypted if efforts at decryption produce sharp decreases in entropy and increases in mutual information. A fully decrypted language should have minimum entropy and maximum mutual information. The magnitude of which should scale with language complexity. I demonstrate this with a simple numerical experiment on English language text encrypted with a basic polyalphabetic cipher. I conclude with unanswered questions for future research. Alex Root, “Do Cells use Passwords? Do they Encrypt Information?” at bioRxiv
He is throwing out ideas to start discussion, but it is a serious one.
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