Genes, Drugs, and Models: Something Old, Something New, and a Systems View

Ioannis Androulakis (Biomedical Engineering)

The good news is that we live longer. The bad news is that we live longer! The longer we live, the sicker we may get with diseases, some of which never existed before. At the same time, life and physical sciences are getting much better at understanding how we (humans) function, how/why we get sick, and how/if we can be treated. However, the more we learn, the more we realize there is so much we do not know. We begin to appreciate that getting sick is not as simple as one may have thought in the past and that many things, some of them somewhat vague, such as “stress,” have the ability to make us sick, or sicker. Researchers have argued that the only way we can move our understanding forward is if we start looking "at the forest" and not just “the tree.” In this seminar, students will be introduced to disciplines such as systems biology, systems medicine, and systems pharmacology, which argue that we have to consider events at the "human/host" level and look at a patient from a holistic point of view, and not only at the level of specific molecule or gene. What this requires is that we bring together biology, physiology, engineering, and computational sciences in ways that we still do not know, so that we can put together all the sometimes confusing information we obtain when we study diseases, patients, and drugs and look at the entire “SYSTEM.” We will draw from our research experience and interactions with physicians, pharmacologists and biomedical scientists and engineers, to provide an overview of what might be the "next" frontier in medicine.