Linking diseases

A team of researchers has created a map that shows how diseases are associated with one another in a sample of more than 30 million people.

Researchers have long understood that having certain diseases, like diabetes, increases your risk for having other diseases, like high blood pressure.

Now, a team of researchers from Northeastern University and Harvard University has created a map that shows these ‘disease associations’ in a sample of more than 30 million people.

Built from data included in insurance claims, the map – called the Phenotypic Disease Network – is the largest disease-network database ever built.

The map has been made publicly available at an interactive website called Hudine, a site where visitors can explore the Human Disease Network, even comparing the strength of specific disease associations shown by men and women of different ethnicities.

Experts believe that studying linkages like these could greatly expand medical knowledge.

According to Albert-László Barabási, professor of physics and director of Northeastern’s Center for Complex Network Research, examining disease associations may be ‘a viable path toward elucidating the origins of specific diseases.’

‘Mapping disease networks using digital medical records dramatically changes the way we understand diseases in general,’ said César Hidalgo, a researcher at Harvard University’s Center for International Development.

Disease networks can also be used to inform patients of diseases they may be at risk of developing.

A disease map created by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern Universities in the US