North­eastern physi­cist Albert-​​László Barabási has been awarded the Coz­zarelli Prize by the National Academy of Sci­ences for authoring an orig­inal sci­en­tific paper that presents an out­standing dis­covery in the engi­neering and applied sci­ences cat­e­gory with impor­tant con­se­quences for dis­ease diag­nosis and prevention.

The edi­to­rial board of the Pro­ceed­ings of the National Academy of Sci­ences (PNAS) rec­og­nized “The impli­ca­tions of human meta­bolic net­work topology for dis­ease co-​​morbidity” as one of the six most excel­lent and orig­inal works pub­lished in PNAS in 2008.

The paper pro­vides insights into the human meta­bolic net­work by iden­ti­fying the con­nec­tions between dis­eases. By con­structing a human dis­ease asso­ci­a­tion net­work, Barabási and his team found that the more con­nected a dis­ease is to other dis­eases, the higher is its preva­lence and asso­ci­ated mor­tality rate.

”Most dis­eases are the con­se­quence of the break­down of cel­lular processes, but the rela­tion­ships among genetic and non-​​genetic defects, the mol­e­c­ular inter­ac­tion net­works under­lying them, and the observ­able char­ac­ter­is­tics of these dis­eases remain poorly under­stood,” said Barabási, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of physics and director of the Center for Com­plex Net­work Research at North­eastern. “Our find­ings have the poten­tial to con­tribute to better under­standing of dis­eases and we are hon­ored by this pres­ti­gious recog­ni­tion by the National Academy of Sciences.”

The paper, coau­thored by Deok-​​Sun Lee and Juyong Park of North­eastern, Nicholas Chris­takis of Har­vard Med­ical School, as well as Zoltán Oltvai and Krin Kay of the Uni­ver­sity of Pitts­burgh, also con­cluded that con­nected dis­ease pairs dis­play higher cor­re­lated reac­tion flux rate, cor­re­sponding enzyme-​​encoding gene co-​​expression, and higher co-​​morbidity than those that have no meta­bolic link between them.

The six papers receiving the Coz­zarelli Prize were chosen from nearly 3,500 research arti­cles pub­lished by PNAS in 2008 and rep­re­sent the six broadly defined classes under which the National Academy of Sci­ences is organized.

The award was estab­lished in 2005 and renamed the Coz­zarelli Prize in 2006 to honor late PNAS editor-​​in-​​chief Nicholas R. Coz­zarelli who encour­aged researchers to push the enve­lope of dis­covery. This year’s awards were pre­sented at the PNAS edi­to­rial board meeting on April 26, in Wash­ington, D.C.
PNAS is pub­lished by the National Academy of Sci­ences and is one of the world’s most-​​cited mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary sci­en­tific jour­nals, cov­ering the bio­log­ical, phys­ical and social sciences.