The study and practice of medicine could benefit from an enhanced engagement with the new perspectives provided by the emerging areas of complexity science and systems biology. A more integrated, systemic approach is needed to fully understand the processes of health, disease, and dysfunction, and the many challenges in medical research and education. Integral to this approach is the search for a quantitative, predictive, multilevel, theoretical conceptual framework that both complements the present approaches and stimulates a more integrated research agenda that will lead to novel questions and experimental programmes. As examples, the importance of network structures and scaling laws are discussed for the development of a broad, quantitative, mathematical understanding of issues that are important in health, including ageing and mortality, sleep, growth, circulatory systems, and drug doses. A common theme is the importance of understanding the quantifiable determinants of the baseline scale of life, and developing corresponding parameters that define the average, idealised, healthy individual.
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