Network Medicine

From Comorbidities of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease to Identification of Shared Molecular Mechanisms by Data Integration

Background Deep mining of healthcare data has provided maps of comorbidity relationships between diseases. In parallel, integrative multi-omics investigations have generated high-resolution molecular maps of putative relevance for understanding disease initiation and progression. Yet, it is unclear how to advance an observation of comorbidity relations (one disease to others) to a molecular understanding of the driver processes and associated biomarkers. Results Since Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD) has emerged as a central hub in temporal comorbidity networks, we developed a systematic integrative data-driven framework to identify shared disease-associated genes and pathways, as a proxy for the underlying generative mechanisms inducing comorbidity. We integrated records from approximately 13 M patients from the Medicare database with disease-gene maps that we derived from several resources including a semantic-derived knowledge-base. Using rank-based statistics we not only recovered known comorbidities but also discovered a novel association between COPD and digestive diseases. Furthermore, our analysis provides the first set of COPD co-morbidity candidate biomarkers, including IL15, TNF and JUP, and characterizes their association to aging and life-style conditions, such as smoking and physical activity. Conclusions The developed framework provides novel insights in COPD and especially COPD co-morbidity associated mechanisms. The methodology could be used to discover and decipher the molecular underpinning of other comorbidity relationships and furthermore, allow the identification of candidate co-morbidity biomarkers.


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A. Vinayagama, T.E. Gibsonb, H.-J. Lee, B. Yilmazeld, C. Roeseld, Y. Hua, Y. Kwona, A. Sharma, Y.-Y. Liu, N. Perrimona, A.-L. Barabasi

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.1603992113, 1-6 (2016)