Optimizing Our Patients' Entropy Production as Therapy? Hypotheses Originating from the Physics of Physiology

Author: Andrew J E Seely1,2,3
1 Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1H 8M5, Canada.
2 Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Ottawa, ON K1Y 4E9, Canada.
3 Thoracic Surgery and Critical Care Medicine, University of Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6, Canada.
Conference/Journal: Entropy (Basel)
Date published: 2020 Sep 29
Other: Volume ID: 22 , Issue ID: 10 , Pages: 1095 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3390/e22101095. , Word Count: 261

Understanding how nature drives entropy production offers novel insights regarding patient care. Whilst energy is always preserved and energy gradients irreversibly dissipate (thus producing entropy), increasing evidence suggests that they do so in the most optimal means possible. For living complex non-equilibrium systems to create a healthy internal emergent order, they must continuously produce entropy over time. The Maximum Entropy Production Principle (MEPP) highlights nature's drive for non-equilibrium systems to augment their entropy production if possible. This physical drive is hypothesized to be responsible for the spontaneous formation of fractal structures in space (e.g., multi-scale self-similar tree-like vascular structures that optimize delivery to and clearance from an organ system) and time (e.g., complex heart and respiratory rate variability); both are ubiquitous and essential for physiology and health. Second, human entropy production, measured by heat production divided by temperature, is hypothesized to relate to both metabolism and consciousness, dissipating oxidative energy gradients and reducing information into meaning and memory, respectively. Third, both MEPP and natural selection are hypothesized to drive enhanced functioning and adaptability, selecting states with robust basilar entropy production, as well as the capacity to enhance entropy production in response to exercise, heat stress, and illness. Finally, a targeted focus on optimizing our patients' entropy production has the potential to improve health and clinical outcomes. With the implications of developing a novel understanding of health, illness, and treatment strategies, further exploration of this uncharted ground will offer value.

Keywords: complex non-equilibrium systems; fractal structures; maximum entropy production principle; monitoring of scale-invariant variation; thermodynamics.

PMID: 33286863 PMCID: PMC7597192 DOI: 10.3390/e22101095