Picasso Tadpoles: Michael Levin on the ‘Dark Matter’ of Biology

Dr. Michael Levin of Tufts University crosses many disciplines: computer science, embryo development, cancer and tumor research; limb regeneration; evolutionary theory and neural networks.

If you watch some of Michael’s fascinating talks at https://ase.tufts.edu/biology/labs/levin/research/presentations.htm he’ll take you down his magical rabbit hole including worms that grow new heads when you cut them in half, tumors that heal themselves and eyes planted on tails that actually work.

In this interview, Michael explodes the myth that “we’ve got it mostly figured out.”

The truth is closer to 1% understanding and 99% is Dark Matter.

Discover Michael’s research at https://allencenter.tufts.edu/our-team/michael-levin/ and http://www.drmichaellevin.org.

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One Response

  1. John Torday says:

    Great interview Perry and Michael. HOWEVER, what Michael misses is the ‘meat’ in the biological ‘sandwich’ of evolution and regeneration. He focuses on electrical properties of cells, which are under the auspices of growth factors that determine homeostatic set-points. Biological homeostasis refers all the way back to the Singularity that preceded the Big Bang, so that is the reference point for both the physical and biological realms, which share the common vectoral trajectory produced by the Big Bang. Physics and biology merge through cells endogenizing their environment (Endosymbiosis Theory, Lynn Margulis), their physiologic contents now also being governed by the Laws of Nature just like everything else in the Cosmos. So in my humble opinion, Levin has ‘thrown the baby out with the bath water’ by overarching the entire literature on cell-cell signaling as the basis for development, phylogeny, injury repair and evolution. Experimentally, if you deprive a cell of its environmental ‘cues’ you will lose the electrical signals that Michael is studying, so it’s the interactions between the cells and their environments that give the insight to evolution and physiology…..the electrical flows are epiphenomena! Michael did mention the loss of gap junctions in injury, but such structures were eliminated as being ‘necessary’ in all of the experimental work on paracrine signaling by implementing the use of conditioned medium to experimental demonstrate the existence of soluble growth factors like Stan Cohen’s Epidermal Growth Factor or Maria Montalcini’s Nerve Growth Factor. Talk about palimpsest!

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