How many dimensions are there to Aphrodite or Medusa? Can you describe them in one word or even a short list? Would you even try to do so, when the process of appreciating their complexity is such a positive experience? And if you were blessed with the skills to represent them artistically, would you leave out the bits that the censors didn’t like or the buyers weren’t going to pay for today?
And so too medicine and biology. Why do we require our medical portrayals to be in one word, one number, or an incoherent list (such as PSA, cholesterol, blood-pressure, age)? Why are our regulatory and payment systems for diagnostics based on one test at a time? Why do Netflix and Amazon use the latest mathematics and “big-data” to suggest our next trivial purchase but important medical decisions are left to the mind of a single human? Do we really believe that disease, behavior and biology are that simple? Or are we afraid — or worse — complacent?
The time has come to embrace the real complexity rather than shun it; to build diagnostic products which are coherent, multidimensional and powerful. Making thousands of protein measurements and coupling them with mathematical analyses, data integration and user-friendly interfaces is close to an ideal solution to these issues, and I will attempt to illustrate that they create a better portrayal of the beauty and horror of biology and disease.