Unraveling the mechanistic complexity of Alzheimer's disease through systems biology

Alzheimers Dement. 2016 Jun;12(6):708-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.10.010. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a complex, multifactorial disease that has reached global epidemic proportions. The challenge remains to fully identify its underlying molecular mechanisms that will enable development of accurate diagnostic tools and therapeutics. Conventional experimental approaches that target individual or small sets of genes or proteins may overlook important parts of the regulatory network, which limits the opportunity of identifying multitarget interventions. Our perspective is that a more complete insight into potential treatment options for AD will only be made possible through studying the disease as a system. We propose an integrative systems biology approach that we argue has been largely untapped in AD research. We present key publications to demonstrate the value of this approach and discuss the potential to intensify research efforts in AD through transdisciplinary collaboration. We highlight challenges and opportunities for significant breakthroughs that could be made if a systems biology approach is fully exploited.

Keywords: Complex systems; Computational modeling; Holistic; Integrative; Risk genes; Transdisciplinary research.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Systems Biology / methods*