Citation: Irwin A, Valentine N, Brown C, Loewenson R, Solar O, et al. (2006) The Commission on Social Determinants of Health: Tackling the social roots of health inequities. PLoS Med 3(6): e106.
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The Limits of Reductionism in Medicine: Does Systems Biology Offer an Alternative?
"Reductionism pervades the medical sciences and affects the way we diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases," say Andrew Ahn (Harvard Medical School) and colleagues. While reductionism--the idea that complex problems are solvable by dividing them into smaller, simpler units--has been responsible for tremendous successes in modern medicine, say the authors, there are limits to reductionism, and an alternative explanation must be sought to complement it.
An alternative approach that has received much recent attention, they say, is the systems perspective, exemplified by systems biology. "Rather than dividing a complex problem into its component parts," say the authors, "the systems perspective appreciates the holistic and composite characteristics of a problem and evaluates the problem with the use of computational and mathematical tools. The systems perspective is rooted in the assumption that the forest cannot be explained by studying the trees individually." In two linked articles in PLoS Medicine, Ahn and colleagues examine how a systems approach could be valuable for clinical medicine.
Citation: Ahn AC, Tewari M, Poon CS, Phillips RS (2006) The limits of reductionism in medicine: Could systems biology offer an alternative? PLoS Med 3(6): e208.
PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030208
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Related PLoS Medicine Essay:
Citation: Ahn AC, Tewari M, Poon CS, Phillips RS (2006) The clinical applications of a systems approach. PLoS Med 3(7): e209.
PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030209
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PLoS Medicine is an open access, freely available international medical journal. It publishes original research that enhances our understanding of human health and disease, together with commentary and analysis of important global health issues. For more information, visit http://www.plosmedicine.org
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