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Biology’s Exquisite Waltz

Most of us came from a good love story.

From that tiny fertilized egg, we started an intertwined relationship with our immediate environment; each influencing the other, as in an exquisite waltz. A budding cell, gaining in purpose toward a commitment as one of many cell types in a multicellular organism.

The incredibly fragile balance between an emerging cell and its environment cannot be overstated. Neither is free of influence from the other, in these fledgling, first steps of life.

To add to this mystique, each stage of growth and progress further enables a cell’s development in its subsequent steps. That is to say, an implicit step dependency is in play; one that has to precede the next before emergent growth can continue.

Subsequent growth can only be enabled; it is never specified in advance. A cell grows into its own, in synchrony with its environment and nearby cells, to achieve its fate. There is no central conductor, orchestrating the whole affair. Like a school of fish, there is no leader.

Another important aspect of this expanding structure, is the astounding sensitivity of subsequent development to even the most insignificant change in the internals of a cell and/or its environment.

That is precisely why there are no actual clones or perfect twins. The statistical odds that two identical, fertilized eggs could each have followed precisely the exact same growth trajectory after scores of millions of steps is beyond infinitely small.

Such a case would mean that each cell division, signal received or sent, mutation, death, commitment etc. would need to occur at precisely the same points, all the while influencing and being influenced by their environment at also the same environmental stages.

When faced with these daunting facts while designing a modeling platform, all the while preserving biological fidelity, it became clear that only by emulating first biological principles both inside the cell, and its environment, would we succeed.

100 developer-years later, we did.

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