Chronic respiratory diseases are complex multifactorial disorders whose pathogenesis depends on the interplay between host and environmental factors. To fully understand them and to identify novel treatments, a holistic approach that integrates multiple types and levels of clinical and biological data is necessary. Toward this end, the application of systems biology-based strategies, in particular, network analysis, offers great potential. These systems-based approaches rely heavily on computational methods that can be challenging for the nonspecialist. Accordingly, this Pulmonary Perspective: (1) outlines the basic concepts of networks in biology and the fundamentals of network analysis, and (2) discusses recent applications of network analysis to understand respiratory diseases. The intent of this Perspective is to provide readers with increased understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of network analysis methods as well as their usefulness in addressing research questions involving chronic respiratory diseases.
Keywords: gene regulatory network; protein–protein interaction network; signaling network; systems biology; systems medicine.