Implementing Systems Medicine in clinical practice

The overall aim of systems medicine research is to provide a modern systems-based approach to medical practice. This will lead to early stage medical intervention resulting in the prevention of many clinical diseases, the reduction in disease severity, and the ability to apply resources strategically and wisely. This approach is fundamentally different from the prevailing practice of classical medicine, which is typically characterized by a reactive approach, whereby intervention only occurs once a disease has already manifested itself. Systems medicine aims to understand disease as a complex interplay of many different biological networks on multiple levels (e.g. cells, tissues, organs and organism) and dimensions (e.g. over time).

In the past, clinicians have always integrated clinical observations, empirical knowledge and information from medical tests in order to diagnose diseases and treat patients. This is a proven and successful concept. However, the success of this approach is curtailed by the steep increase in the amount of information that needs to be integrated and the sheer size and complexity of large datasets of modern “-omics” technologies.

Systems biology approaches will allow the integration of information from these datasets into both clinical research and medical practice. Not bridging this gap will deny medicine an enormous amount of patient and disease relevant information. In addition, systems medicine offers a systematic and tractable approach that is reproducible, scalable and evolvable. Systems medicine will provide a new tool to medical researchers and clinicians that will allow clinicians to diagnose and treat patients faster more effectively and has the potential to lead to personalized or P4 medicine (predictive, personalized, preventive and participatory medicine).