Mechanics Of Disease

CHAUTAUQUA- After years of medical progress, humanity finds itself at a scientific standstill.

In a lecture called “Precision Medicine; a Revolution in Research, Health and Health Care,” at Chautauqua Institution, Keith Yamamoto proposed a new way to help move discoveries forward.

Yamamoto, the vice chancellor for research, executive vice dean of the school of medicine, and professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California in San Francisco, told the crowd gathered in the amphitheater that biology is complicated. Scientists don’t know how mechanisms in diseases work, but are controlled by intersecting, multistep signaling networks.

“So, we are at a stalling point that we need to get through if are to be able to begin to move ahead,” said Yamamoto. “… When we reach this mechanistic understanding of biological concepts – moving from description to understanding. If you think about it, that move is a difficult one. It’s a long distance between just describing something and understanding.”

Moving forward through the stalling point will certainly not be easy. Yamamoto said scientists need to integrate with each other due to the current “taxonomy of disease,” which creates a barrier to moving forward. The inflexible and narrow system classifies diseases by symptoms and organs.

“So what if we classified diseases instead of by symptoms and organs by mechanisms?” he asked. “The way things work. The thing that I claimed is the essential thing to work through that stalling point. Well we know – all of you know – that would be a reasonable thing to do because all of you know that are diseases that are absolutely caused by multiple mechanisms. If we just lump them together and say that we are studying one thing, we are going to miss critical bits of information.”

To start classifying diseases by mechanism means encouraging teams of researchers of different backgrounds and specialties to join together to find correlations between diseases. Just like a geographical information system, medical data would be stacked to search for connections and relations.

Yamamoto also called for making use of the smart phones and tablets most Americans own today. By collecting data on an individual, the best personal direction for their health can be provided. Also, by collecting data on people as a whole, trends among groups can be tracked, further allowing for the best personal care.

Yamamoto was the first speaker of the ninth week of lectures at Chautauqua Institution, sponsored by Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Keeping up with the theme of wellness, Daniel Weinberger, Scott Giberson, Martha Hill and John Lumpkin will be giving lectures at 10:45 a.m. at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater today through Friday.