network theory

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1. A general term for theories about the properties of networks, of which signalling pathways and the internet are classic examples. The important feature of a network is that it is robust and alternative pathways can compensate for damage or deletion.

2. In immunology, the ‘network theory’ was proposed in 1974 by N. K. Jerne, who suggested that the immune system was a network in which there were antigen binding sites (paratopes) on antibodies which would bind an epitope on an external antigen and an idiotope, a structurally similar region, on another immunoglobulin molecule. The theory has generally fallen out of favour.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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