Author Summary: To help the understanding of physiological failures, diseases are defined as specific sets of phenotypes affecting one or several physiological systems. Yet, the complexity of biological systems implies that our working definitions of diseases are careful discretizations of a complex phenotypic space. To reconcile the discrete nature of diseases with the complexity of biological organisms, we need to understand how diseases are connected, as connections between these different discrete categories can be informative about the mechanisms causing physiological failures. Here we introduce the Phenotypic Disease Network (PDN) as a map summarizing phenotypic connections between diseases and show that diseases progress preferentially along the links of this map. Furthermore, we show that this progression is different for patients with different genders and racial backgrounds and that patients affected by diseases that are connected to many other diseases in the PDN tend to die sooner than those affected by less connected diseases. Additionally, we have created a queryable online database (http://hudine.neu.edu/) of the 18 different datasets generated from the more than 31 million patients in this study. The disease associations can be explored online or downloaded in bulk.
h/t Disconnected, fragmented, or united? a trans-disciplinary review of network science by César A. Hidalgo (Applied Network Science | SpringerLink)