This section is from the book "Research In Physiopathology As Basis Of Guided Chemotherapy With Special Application To Cancer", by Emanuel Revici. Also available from amazon: Research In Physiopathology
Before going further in trying to analyze submorphologic hierarchic entities, one problem was to establish the limits of the biological realm itself. The question was, how far below the morphological formations could we go and still have entities which can be regarded as biological. With the progress of science, criteria previously used to define life have become outmoded. A separation line between the animate and inanimate no longer can be drawn. With the study of the properties of viruses, it appeared impossible to maintain the last vestige of the old vitalistic concept. According to most of the classical criteria, viruses would represent animate entities since they are able to multiply and conserve a strict identity. However, they also form salts, are crystallized, broken down, and then reconstructed in the same or another order. If the viruses are accepted as "borderline" entities, as proposed, then the concept of animate and inanimate can no longer be sustained.
Although the animate and inanimate cannot be distinguished in terms of a specific property, we cannot totally overlook the fact that an important group of entities appear quite different from others in nature. As animals and plants are different from stones, even without any vitalistic concept, we are obliged not only to recognize the difference, but also to try to establish where the difference lies. To conform to reality, we have applied the term "biological" to a group of entities, but we have given the term a new meaning.
Just as organic chemistry is considered—whether correctly or not—to comprise certain combinations of carbon, we consider the biological realm to comprise entities hierarchically developed from a specific chemical radical. This basic radical includes nitrogen and carbon atoms bound together to form the N C-N C group. According to this concept, starting from the basic nitrogen carbon formation, an entire series of entities has been developed through hierarchic organization. Together they form the realm to which the term "biological" can be applied.
The N C-N C group, through combination with hydrogen, would result in radicals with a strong alkaline property; that is, with strong positive electrical character. Some of these N C-N C groups take part in the formation of nitrogenous bases, pyrimidines and purines, while some, by acting as principal part and binding various amino acid radicals would, with the necessary electrons, build up a new group of entities, arginine and histidine as alkaline amino acids. These can be considered, hierarchically, to be the immediate superiors of the N C-N C group and thus to represent the first biological molecules. The alkaline positive character of these molecules is noteworthy. Following the hierarchic pattern described above, several such alkaline amino acids linked together to a series of entities of the same level (simple amino acids) will form new groups that are still electrically positive: the alkaline histones. In a new step, these histones will act as principal part to produce nuclear entities. (Fig. 4)
Principal parts, by binding different secondary parts, can form not one but many new and different entities. More than one hierarchic line can be identified. An especially important line results when histones bind one or more entities of the nucleic acid group, to form nucleo proteins. Other histones can bind various other secondary parts such as carbohydrates or lipids and, in so doing, form different biological entities. Some of these entities can continue their hierarchic development. Nucleo proteins can have ribose or deoxyribose and consequently form more complex nucleo proteins. Through all hierarchic achievement, it can be seen that new lines are formed when groups of hierarchically lower entities, acting as principal organized part, bind different secondary parts, all more negative than the principal part. Theoretically, this would result in a series of entities all at the same level, i.e. entities with similar principal parts but having different secondary parts. Some would go on to develop superior hierarchic entities, others would evolve no further.
Fig. 4. The organization of the submorphological entities of the biological realm. The same hierarchic general pattern, with principal and secondary parts is recognized. Starting with the positive CNCN group, each entity has its principal part made by the grouping of immediately inferior entities bound to secondary parts, generally more electronegative.
Different entities of the the same level can be grouped together in various ways to form a variety of principal parts. Always the group must be made up of entities of the same level. This requirement has been seen to be general at all hierarchic levels. Since differences can exist between the constituents forming the principal part for a new entity, the predominance of one or another constituent will make entities at the same level differ. This mechanism of differentiation through the constitution of the principal part has been extremely important throughout the biological realm.