We can cure almost all human diseases. Here’s how. | Albert-László Barabási

The Human Genome Project was a major breakthrough in medicine, but according to network scientist Albert-László Barabási, simply having a list of genes is not enough to fully understand how they interact, and crucially, how our bodies work. Barabási believes network science — which studies complex patterns and interactions between our cells — can fill in this gap by creating a biological map from which we could develop new cures, and even predict diseases.

He explains that disease genes often have mutations that result in a missing interaction within the sub-cellular network, which then causes problems in the functioning of a cell. Traditional medicinal interventions can lead to unwanted side effects, as they also affect other cellular processes in the network; network medicine has revealed that these complex systems, though robust, are also fragile to attacks, and removing a few major hubs can break the network into tiny pieces.

Understanding the structure of the network within our cells can allow for precise interventions that cure the problem without causing other issues. For Barabási, the ideal future of medicine would involve individualized network diagrams being adopted as a standard tool for doctors to show patients where mutations are, how they impact the rest of the cell, and how interventions can stop their effects.