Course Identification

Systems medicine

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Prof. Uri Alon

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Monday, 14:15 - 16:00, FGS, Rm C

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Physical Sciences: Lecture; Elective; 2.00 points
Chemical Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Brain Sciences: Systems, Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Life Sciences (Computational and Systems Biology Track): Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Mathematics and Computer Science: Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points
Mathematics and Computer Science (Systems Biology / Bioinformatics): Lecture; Elective; Regular; 2.00 points


This course is new and has virtually no overlap with the physics of behavior course (2018)


The course is designed for an interdisciplinary audience, and we will help each other understand the parts that are basic for some backgrounds and new for others. For physicists/CS/Math, no previous background in biology is assumed. For biologists, the level of math will be challenging but doable (differential equations), and some exercises will include programming. The emphasis is on how to build a good model of a biological system that addresses important questions.



Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation

Expected and Recommended

Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type

Final assignment

Scheduled date 1


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



The human body is a wondrous system. It is able to maintain healthy function despite huge molecular and environmental variations. The circuits that enable it to function so robustly have specific fragilities that lead to diseases. This course will provide basic principles for understanding human physiological circuits and concepts for making sense of disease processes and their dynamics. The course will include guitar songs and other enjoyable methods to improve attention and learning.


  • Circuits for organ size control and dynamic compensation. Example: insulin control of glucose, and its breakdown in type-2 diabetes.
  • Feedback loops of hormonal glands: seasonal clocks, mood disorders.
  • Rules for autoimmune diseases: why some tissues are attacked by the body and others are not. Example: type-1 diabetes.
  •  How tissues maintain proper ratios between cell types. Example: inflammation and scar formation (fibrosis).
  • What sets the rate of aging? What determine the incidence of age-related diseases?
  • Evolutionary concepts in medicine. Example: cancer as evolution in the body.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Understand physiological systems in terms of general mathematical principles that unify different systems.
  2. Describe physiological systems and their diseases using simple mathematical models, and generate new hypotheses that can be tested experimentally.

Reading List

U. Alon, An Introduction to Systems Biology: design principles of biological circuits. CRC press (2006).

S. Stearns, R. Medzhitov, Evolutionary Medicine, Sinauer (2016)

S. Strogatz, Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: with applications to physics, biology, chemistry and engineering, CRC press (2000).