The concept of self-organization in biology has long been applied in behavioural studies of animals such as fish, ants and fireflies. Now, cell and developmental biologists are using similar concepts to explore how patterns are generated in cells and tissues.
It is always tempting to seek common mechanistic foundations for different biological phenomena. This approach should be used carefully because biological mechanisms are remarkably diverse, but increasing evidence suggests that the principle of self-organization is broadly applicable. Unlike human-made machines, biological machines must be sufficiently dynamic and flexible to respond to their external and internal environments, and they must rely on themselves to generate order. The challenge for researchers is to look beyond our usual engineering principles and to appreciate the less familiar logic of biological organization.
Benjamin S. Glick NATURE CELL BIOLOGY VOLUME 9 NUMBER 2 FEBRUARY 2007 p132