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Systems biology for accurate treatment

Mathematical models can help doctors choose the correct treatment for each individual patient. A three-day workshop at Linköping University addressed a new research field, systems biology, and its significance for person-specific treatment.

Jens Timmerman.The problem is one of the biggest in health care today. The medication or surgery that works well on one person either has no effect, or in the worst-case serious side effects, on another. At the same time, medical measurement techniques are developing at breakneck speed and are delivering enormous amounts of data that are impossible to Hiraki Kitano.handle when employing classic diagnostics.

“Even back in the 1980s they were developing decision support to provide doctors with help when choosing the correct medicine for the patient,” says Gunnar Cedersund, research associate funded by the Swedish Research Council and arranger of the workshop “Can systems biology aid personalized medication?”

Elin Nyman.A model for Type 2 diabetes that Cedersund developed in conjunction with people like graduate student Elin Nyman and Professor Peter Strålfors  has garnered recent attention. By including topical measurement data, a specific model for a given patient can be obtained, which can then be used for diagnosis, prognosis, and choice of treatment.

The workshop, held on December 5-7, gathers together researchers and doctors from around the world. Gunnar Cederlund.The keynote speaker is Hiroaki Kitano, one of the researchers who started the field a decade or so ago. He is now the chair of the International Society for Systems Biology and has been a guest professor at LiU for a year.

Kitano, like the German researcher Jens Timmer, was recruited as a link in the effort to draw high-profile researchers to the university. Another important recruitment is Doctor Mikael Benson, a newly-employed professor in Medical Systems Biology, who leads two networks on the subject.

“We are concentrating on establishing systems biology as a strong field of research at LiU, and are starting a centre with some 15 research groups at the Faculty of Health Sciences and the Institute of Technology. Our niche is strong theoretical construction and a clear medical focus,” Cedersund says.

Text: Åke Hjelm


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Last updated: 2012-12-10