Systems Biology May Radically Change Healthcare – Individually Based Prediction, Prevention, and Treatment

M. Benson, L.-O. Cardell, S. Hohmann, M. Jirstrand, M. Langston, R. Mobini, and O. Nerman. Läkartidningen, 2007, 104(42), 3037-3041.

Common diseases like allergy, diabetes, and cancer is complex, i.e., they are caused by an imbalance between a large number of genes and environmental factors, and not only on one or a few ‘malfunctioning’ genes. There are techniques for simultaneous analysis of mRNA- and protein expression levels corresponding to all the human genes. This has generated vast amounts of data, which can contribute to better understanding of complex disease. The problem is to properly delineate and interpret the available information.

One of the aims of systems biology is to construct a theoretical framework to describe how molecular pathways and networks, more than isolated molecules, cause a disease. This is starting to generate clinical results, e.g., individually based medication in the treatment of cancer.

Within the coming decades the research in systems biology is predicted to become important in the clinic, not only for personalized medicine, but also  for prediction or even preventing disease. The pharmaceutical industry also deploys systems biology efforts to develop new drugs.

Hence, it is important that Swedish clinics, researchers, and other stake holders promptly make up their minds about how research in systems biology should be carried out in Sweden.

In this article we give an introduction to new techniques that exist for the simultaneous study of all human genes. Furthermore, we try to describe systems biology principles on how to interpret results as well as their clinical implications.

Photo credits: Nic McPhee