Generally unicellular prokaryotes are considered the most fundamental form of living system. Many researchers include viruses since they commandeer cellular machinery in their replication; while others insist viruses are merely complex infective proteins. New biological principles are introduced suggesting that even the prion, the infectious protein responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, qualifies as the most fundamental form of life; and remains in general concordance with the six-point definition of living systems put forth by Humberto Maturana and his colleagues in their original characterization of living organisms as a class of complex self-organized autopoietic systems in 1974.
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