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Discovering the Ties That Bind: Cell-Cell Communication and the Development of Cell Sociology

Discovering the Ties That Bind: Cell-Cell Communication and the Development of Cell Sociology

Chapter:
(p.109) 4 Discovering the Ties That Bind: Cell-Cell Communication and the Development of Cell Sociology
Source:
Biological Individuality
Author(s):
Andrew S. Reynolds
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226446592.003.0005

Social metaphors have long been a part of the cell theory. In the nineteenth century plants and animals were described as ‘cell-states’ (ZellenStaaten) composed of cell ‘citizens’ functionally arranged into specialized tissue ‘classes’ or ‘professions.’ This conception of the organism as a ‘society of cells’ was conceptually grounded by the principle of the division of (physiological) labor, an idea transferred from political economy to help explain the functional organization of a coherent system of semi-autonomous parts. More recently however cell biology has been reshaped by the idea of inter-cellular communication. This paper details how the science of cell communication provides a new explanatory account of how multicellular organisms and other ‘cell societies’ with their division of labor are created and maintained through the bonds of communication. The idea of ‘cell sociology’ is discussed as a particular reflection of this new communicative model of multicellular organization and function.

Keywords:   cell-cell communication, community effect, multicellularity, metaphors in science, cell sociology

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