Pathway-based classification of genetic diseases
© The Author(s). 2019
- Published: 4 February 2019
In medical genetics, diseases are classified according to the nature (hypothetical nature) of the underlying genetic defect. The classification is “gene-centric” and “factor-centric”; a disease may be, thereby, designated as monogenic, oligogenic or polygenic/multifactorial. Chromosomal diseases/syndromes and abnormalities are generally considered apart from these designations due to distinctly different formation mechanisms and simultaneous encompassing from several to several hundreds of co-localized genes. These definitions are ubiquitously used and are perfectly suitable for human genetics issues in historical and academic perspective. However, recent achievements in systems biology have offered a possibility to explore the consequences of a genetic defect from genomic variations to molecular/cellular pathway alterations unique to a disease. Since pathogenetic mechanisms (pathways) are more influential on our understating of disease presentation and progression than genetic defects per se, a need for a disease classification reflecting both genetic causes and molecular/cellular mechanisms appears to exist. Here, we propose an extension to the common disease classification based on the underlying genetic defects, which focuses on disease-specific molecular pathways.
The basic idea of our classification is to propose pathways as parameters for designating a genetic disease. To proceed, we have followed the tradition of using ancient Greek words and prefixes to create the terms for the pathway-based classification of genetic diseases. We have chosen the word “griphos” (γρῖφος), which simultaneously means “net” and “puzzle”, accurately symbolizing the term “pathway” currently used in molecular biology and medicine. Thus, diseases may be classified as monogryphic (single pathway is altered to result in a phenotype), digryphic (two pathways are altered to result in a phenotype), etc.; additionally, diseases may be designated as oligogryphic (several pathways are altered to result in a phenotype), polygryphic (numerous pathways or cascades of pathways are altered to result in a phenotype) and homeogryphic in cases of comorbid diseases resulted from shared pathway alterations. We suppose that classifying illness this way using both “gene-centric” and “pathway-centric” concepts is able to revolutionize current views on genetic diseases.