A large number of diseases are caused by defects in signalling pathways. The nature of these defects and how they are induced varies enormously. Pathogenic organisms and viruses, many of which can interfere with signalling events, can cause some of these defects. There are other diseases that can be traced to defects in the function of cell signalling pathways. The concept of signalsome remodelling and disease provides a framework for considering how defects in signalling pathways can result in disease. It is convenient to separate these defects into phenotypic remodelling of the signalsome and genotypic remodelling of the signalsome. Most of the serious diseases in humans, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and many forms of mental illness, seem to arise from subtle phenotypic modifications of signalling pathways. Such phenotypic remodelling alters the behaviour of cells so that their normal functions are subverted, leading to disease. Since it has proved difficult to clearly establish this relationship between signalsome remodelling and disease, there has been relatively little progress in designing effective treatments.
Genotypic modifications resulting from either somatic mutations or germline mutations have been somewhat easier to diagnose, but have also proved difficult to treat as witnessed by the failure of many of the gene therapy strategies. Clearly, there is an urgent need to understand more about all of these disease states in order to design better therapies. The enormous redundancy built into cell signalling mechanisms offers many opportunities for discovering new ways of correcting many disease states. The reversal of Ca2+-dependent neurodegeneration is an example where such a strategy could provide novel therapies for treating some of the major neural diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
- © 2014 Portland Press Limited