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REVIEW: Unsolvable Problems of Biology: It Is Impossible to Create Two Identical Organisms, to Defeat Cancer, or to Map Organisms onto Their Genomes

E. D. Sverdlov

Shemyakin–Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 117997 Moscow, Russia; E-mail: edsverd@gmail.com

Received November 12, 2017
The review is devoted to unsolvable problems of biology. 1) Problems unsolvable due to stochastic mutations occurring during DNA replication that make it impossible to create two identical organisms or even two identical complex cells (Sverdlov, E. D. (2009) Biochemistry (Moscow), 74, 939-944) and to “defeat” cancer. 2) Problems unsolvable due to multiple interactions in complex systems leading to the appearance of unpredictable emergent properties that prevent establishment of unambiguous relationships between the genetic architecture and phenotypic manifestation of the genome and make impossible to predict with certainty responses of the organism, its parts, or pathological processes to external factors. 3) Problems unsolvable because of the uncertainty principle and observer effect in biology, due to which it is impossible to obtain adequate information about cells in their tissue microenvironment by isolating and analyzing individual cells. In particular, we cannot draw conclusions on the properties of stem cells in their niches based on the properties of stem cell cultures. A strategy is proposed for constructing the pattern most closely approximated to the relationship of genotypes with their phenotypes by designing networks of intermediate phenotypes (endophenotypes).
KEY WORDS: stochastic mutations, emergent properties, heterogeneity, biological uncertainty principle, phenotype, genotype, selected function

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297918040089