Perhaps we should stop naming illnesses and describe ailments according to molecular pathway aberrations?

The BBC recently reported on research that suggested diabetes is actually five different diseases but should this announcement actually surprise anyone? Scientists and clinicians love putting labels on things and one can’t help but wonder if this encourages entrenched thinking. Biological molecules are often labelled according to their function at the time of discovery. Yet subsequently many are found to have multiple roles. How many medicines in use today for restricted indications could actually be used to help treat other illnesses due to some hereto unrecognised contribution of a shared pathway? It always takes us back to that age old question, what causes any given disease? There may come a time (though not anytime soon) when we have a complete understanding of the molecular architecture of our bodies where it is the aberrant hiccup in our real-time processes that are identified and treated rather than the end stage of a set of multiple cellular-based cataclysms that eventually raises the ‘Houston we have a problem’ scenario leaving us therapeutically scraping away at the surface problem.

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Gary Paterson PhD Evidence & Information Manager Hayward Medical