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WIREs Syst Biol Med
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Systems biology and the future of medicine

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Contemporary views of human disease are based on simple correlation between clinical syndromes and pathological analysis dating from the late 19th century. Although this approach to disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment has served the medical establishment and society well for many years, it has serious shortcomings for the modern era of the genomic medicine that stem from its reliance on reductionist principles of experimentation and analysis. Quantitative, holistic systems biology applied to human disease offers a unique approach for diagnosing established disease, defining disease predilection, and developing individualized (personalized) treatment strategies that can take full advantage of modern molecular pathobiology and the comprehensive data sets that are rapidly becoming available for populations and individuals. In this way, systems pathobiology offers the promise of redefining our approach to disease and the field of medicine. WIREs Syst Biol Med 2011 3 619–627 DOI: 10.1002/wsbm.144

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Figure 1.

The human systems biology universe. Human systems comprise molecular and phenotypic networks, which are related to, but distinct from, each other, as indicated by the separate linked ovals. The human disease‐ome represents a collection of subnetworks, the disease modules, which are identified by one of two strategies, the molecular network‐based strategy or the functional and structural similarity‐based strategy. The assembly of disease modules into the disease‐ome can be determined by bioinformatics‐based approaches—the shared gene formalism, the shared metabolic pathway formalism, or the disease comorbidity formalism—or by laboratory‐based experimentation.

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In the Spotlight

Merryn Tawhai

Merryn Tawhai

Dr. Tawhai is PI for lung modeling activities at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and adjunct Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa. Her research centers on developing multi-scale and multi-physics computational models of structure and function in the lung. A theme that runs through all of her work is the relationship between regional changes in lung structure or function and standard integrated measurements of the lung that are made at the mouth.

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