Equations that Spell Disaster
Researchers are pinpointing the factors that combine to produce complex diseases.
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the Category 5 storm caused such severe and lingering damage because it encountered the perfect combination of vulnerabilities: weak infrastructure, poor lines of communication, and a dysfunctional emergency rescue system. These conditions coalesced to produce one of the worst human catastrophes in recent US history. In a similar way, complex diseases result from a series of events that may not amount to much when considered one by one, but together, coalesce into a perfect storm that spells disaster for a particular organ or system.