Background: We review and extend the work of Rosen and Casti who discuss category theory with regards to systems biology and manufacturing systems, respectively.
Results: We describe anticipatory systems, or long-range feed-forward chemical reaction chains, and compare them to open-loop manufacturing processes. We then close the loop by discussing metabolism-repair systems and describe the rationality of the self-referential equation f = f (f). This relationship is derived from some boundary conditions that, in molecular systems biology, can be stated as the cardinality of the following molecular sets must be about equal: metabolome, genome, proteome. We show that this conjecture is not likely correct so the problem of self-referential mappings for describing the boundary between living and nonliving systems remains an open question. We calculate a lower and upper bound for the number of edges in the molecular interaction network (the interactome) for two cellular organisms and for two manufacturomes for CMOS integrated circuit manufacturing.
Conclusions: We show that the relevant mapping relations may not be Abelian, and that these problems cannot yet be resolved because the interactomes and manufacturomes are incomplete.
© 2011 Rietman et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.