There is an interesting article in the current issue of The Journal of Precision Medicine on Alzheimer’s.
The article attempts to answer a seemingly simple, yet complex question…Can systems biology and precision medicine approaches be used to understand the disease better and develop more effective therapies?
First, a few of our highlights from the article:
First, while deaths from diseases such as breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke declined from 2000-2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s skyrocketed by 71%.
Now interpreting these data can be tricky because of the limitations of recording deaths “with” dementia compared to deaths “from” dementia. Thus, while death certificates typically list acute diseases such as pneumonia, the underlying Alzheimer’s may not be recorded, resulting in an underreporting of the real data.
Second, the genetic risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s involve lipid transport, amyloid processing, inflammation, immunity, and other factors. Non-genetic factors include lifestyle, dietary, and other factors. So how do you treat such a complex situation, especially with mono therapy?
One approach is to use precision medicine-based approaches to create exquisitely specific subsegments of patients, and then tailoring the treatment approaches accordingly. This requires massive amounts of detail covering past medical histories, highly specific diagnostics, and so forth.
This obviously has significant implications for clinical development & trial design.
These complexities have led researchers to take a “systems biology” approach in order to discover drugs which target entire networks, as opposed to a single, individual pathway.
This leaves the door open to repurposing older drugs to target networks associated with Alzheimer’s. Indeed, the authors note that memantine was originally developed for the treatment of influenza.
The article is quite interesting, and anyone who wishes to learn more about the application of precision medicine and systems biology may learn a thing or two about these concepts.