Neuropsychiatric (NP) disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the leading causes of disability around the world. However, because of their complexity, the etiology and pathophysiology of NP diseases are still mostly unknown.
Such complexity may be caused by many factors, including etiologic heterogeneity and the overlap of symptoms among different disorders (Alawieh et al. 2012). Other important features include genetic factors, immunological and neurological elements, as well as environmental interactions (Diaz-Beltran et al. 2013).
These factors have made it hard to identify NP biomarkers based on genetic or imaging studies. Furthermore, the variations among different individuals and population groups add even more complexity for precise diagnosis or prognosis (Alawieh et al. 2012).
However, current clinical psychiatric practice based on symptom checklists needs to be improved to achieve better clinical outcomes. More and more evidences have indicated the importance of studying the complexity from a new and more systemic perspective, such as systems biology-based biomarkers (Diaz-Beltran et al. 2013).
Alawieh A, Zaraket FA, Li JL, Mondello S, Nokkari A, Razafsha M, Fadlallah B, Boustany RM, Kobeissy FH. Systems biology, bioinformatics, and biomarkers in neuropsychiatry. Front Neurosci. 2012 Dec 24;6:187. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00187.
Diaz-Beltran L, Cano C, Wall DP, Esteban FJ. Systems biology as a comparative approach to understand complex gene expression in neurological diseases. Behav Sci (Basel). 2013 May 21;3(2):253-72. doi: 10.3390/bs3020253.