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  • Newly discovered networks among different diseases reveal hidden connections

    Scientific American - 02/05/2015

    The work is being driven by the realization that diseases, as defined in medicine, sound like tidy, distinct entities, but are messier in reality. Diseases tend to be defined by their symptoms. But the molecular roots of a disease may have biological effects that go far beyond our current understanding. Certain diseases tend to follow others or have high rates of comorbidity, and though it isn’t clear why, it may be because they arise from related biological flaws.

    “The idea is, connections at the cellular level get amplified at the population level, and they emerge as comorbidity,” said Albert-László Barabási, a physicist at Northeastern University who has published several landmark papers in this area, including a 2009 article in PLOS Computational Biology that helped inspire Thurner, as well as a 2011 review of the field in Nature Reviews Genetics. Using a disease network, a researcher might suggest that biologists look for new disease genes shared between diseases one and two, for instance, where there seems to be a strong connection.

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