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How the biologists were able to determine the functions of body organs? Using a specific example organ for an answer would be ideal.

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closed as too broad by kmm, AliceD, WYSIWYG Aug 26 '16 at 10:49

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean historically how were the functions determined or in present day how are they studied? You question is quite broad at the moment. $\endgroup$ – kmm Aug 23 '16 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ I mean how biologists collected data which we are provided about functions of organs? Like they determined structure of cell by observing it under the microscope but observing how it works seem difficult out of body because after cell is taken out of body it will no more be able to perform functions. $\endgroup$ – AksaK Aug 23 '16 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I mean historically how were the functions determined $\endgroup$ – AksaK Aug 23 '16 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking for the entire history of an organ, the definition of an organ, or a reference that shows some tissue being described as an organ/organ-like structure? $\endgroup$ – James Aug 30 '16 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ I want to know that how scientists determined function of organ for example it is said that hypothalamus of brain is responsible for controlling blood pressure, homeostasis, body temperature, hunger , thirst etc but how did they know this? $\endgroup$ – AksaK Aug 30 '16 at 13:19
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A very common way of getting information on the function of an organ, part of an organ (such as a region of the brain) or a protein is to look at the outcome (symptoms or phenotype) in cases where it is not functional. E.g., a lot has been understood about brain function for speech production by studying aphasia in stroke patients (see wikipedia) and linking the symptoms with the brain region that is damaged.

This is still the way we mostly study living cells or organisms: mutants defective for such or such protein, or in which external disruption (such as ablation) is used and the resulting phenotype or symptoms are studied.

This is indeed very different from what can be done for research in physics e.g., where reduced systems with simpler functions can be studied. The approach in biology is much closer to reverse engineering, where a given system has to be studied as a whole but a rational approach on some subpart allows to build an understanding of that subpart.

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