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BACKGROUND: Multimorbidity (i.e. the presence of more than one chronic disease in the same patient) and comorbidity (i.e. the presence of more than one chronic disease in the presence of an index disease) are main sources of dysfunction in chronic patients and avoidable costs in conventional health systems worldwide. By affecting a majority of elderly population worldwide, multimorbidity prompts the need for revisiting the single disease approach followed by contemporary clinical practice and elaborate strategies that target shared mechanisms of associated diseases with the potential of preventing, decelerating or even halting multimorbid disease progression. However, our current understanding on disease interactions is rather limited, and although many disorders have been associated based on their shared molecular traits and their observed co-occurrence in different populations, no comprehensive approach has been outlined to translate this knowledge into clinical practice. The advent of novel measurement technologies (e.g. omics) and recent initiatives on digital health (e.g. registries, electronic health records) are facilitating access to an enormous amount of patient-related information from whole populations to molecular levels. State-of-the art computational models and machine learning tools demonstrate high potential for health prediction and together with systems biology are shaping the practicalities of systems medicine. Given the extremely long and expensive bench to clinics cycles of the biomedical sector, systems medicine promises a fast track approach where scientific evidence support clinical care, while simultaneously collected insights from daily clinical practice promote new scientific discoveries and optimize healthcare. The PhD thesis aims to explore multimorbidity from a systems medicine perspective on the concrete and practical use case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD constitutes an ideal use case due to several factors, including: i) its high impact on healthcare and its ever-increasing burden; ii) its heterogeneous disease manifestations, and progress, often involving extra-pulmonary effects, including highly prevalent comorbidities (e.g. type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disorders, anxiety-depression and lung cancer); and, iii) its well described systemic effects that are suggested associations with comorbidities in terms of underlying mechanisms. HYPOTHESIS: The central hypothesis of the PhD thesis builds on the emerging biological evidence that clustering of comorbid conditions, a phenomenon seen in complex chronic patients, could be due to shared abnormalities in relevant biological pathways (i.e. bioenergetics, inflammation and tissue remodelling). It is assumed that a systems understanding of the patient conditions may help to uncover the molecular mechanisms and lead to the design of preventive and targeted therapeutic strategies aiming at modulating patient prognosis. The PhD thesis focuses on non-pulmonary phenomena of COPD; that is, systemic effects and comorbidities, often observed in patients with COPD as a paradigm of complex chronic disease. OBJECTIVES: The general objective of the PhD thesis is threefold: i) to investigate molecular disturbances at body systems level that may lead to a better understanding of characteristic systemic effects and comorbidities of patients with COPD; ii) to analyse population level patterns of COPD comorbidities and investigate their role in the health risk of patients with COPD; and, iii) to explore technological strategies and tools that facilitate the transfer of the collected knowledge on comorbidity into clinical practice. MAIN FINDINGS: Firstly, the PhD thesis introduced a novel knowledge management tool for targeted molecular analysis of underlying disease mechanisms of skeletal muscle dysfunction in patients with COPD. Second, a network analysis approach was outlined to further study this systemic effect, as well as the causes of abnormal adaptation of COPD muscle to exercise training. Furthermore, this work together with three other studies also aimed to reveal the general underlying causes of comorbidity clustering in COPD, using different modelling approaches. Overarching outcome of these studies indicates abnormalities in the complex co-regulation of core biological pathways (i.e. bioenergetics, inflammation, oxidative stress and tissue remodelling) both on muscle and body systems level (blood, lung), which paves the way for the development of novel pharmacological and non-pharmacological preventive interventions on non- pulmonary phenomena in patients with COPD. Furthermore, results indicated strong relation of muscle related dysregulations to aerobic capacity, in opposed to pulmonary severity of COPD. These findings have far reaching potential in COPD care, starting from defining the need for better characterization of exercise performance in the clinic practice and the promotion of physical activity from early stages of the disease. This PhD thesis also generated outcomes with respect to the risk of multimorbidity in patients with COPD using a population health approach. The thesis validated that patients with COPD are in increased risk to co-occur with other diseases compared to non-COPD patients, regardless of the population and healthcare system specificities of different regions (i.e. Catalonia, US). These findings indicated the potential role of multimorbidity as a risk factor for COPD, that was evaluated in the PhD thesis by constructing health risk assessment models to predict unexpected medical events in patients with COPD. The promising performance of the models and the prominent role of multimorbidity in these models presented a powerful argument for its role in clinical staging of the disease and their potential in clinical decision support. CONCLUSIONS: The PhD thesis achieved main points of the general objectives, namely: i) to perform a systems analysis of patients with COPD by investigating molecular disturbances at body systems level leading to a better understanding of characteristic systemic effects and comorbidities of patient with COPD; ii) to analyse population level patterns of COPD comorbidities and investigate their role in the health risk of patients with COPD; and iii) to explore technological strategies and tools that facilitate the transfer of the collected knowledge on comorbidity into clinical practice. Accordingly, the following conclusions arise: 1.Non-pulmonary manifestations in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) have a major negative impact on: highly relevant clinical events, use of healthcare resources and prognosis. Accordingly, the following indications were made: a.Actionable insights on non-pulmonary phenomena should be included in the clinical staging of these patients in an operational manner. b.Management of patients with COPD should be revisited to incorporate an integrative approach to non-pulmonary phenomena. c.Innovative cost-effective interventions, and pharmacological and non- pharmacological treatments targeting prevention of non-pulmonary manifestations in patients with COPD should be developed, and properly assessed. 2.Abnormal co-regulation of core biological pathways (i.e. bioenergetics, inflammation, tissue remodelling and oxidative stress), both in skeletal muscle and at body systems level, are common characteristics of patients with COPD, which potentially play a major role in comorbidity clustering. 3.Consistent relationships between cardiovascular health, skeletal muscle dysfunction and clinical outcomes in patients with COPD was identified, which makes it a priority to characterize patient exercise performance and physical activity in the clinic, and to adopt early cardiopulmonary rehabilitation strategies to modulate prognosis and prevent comorbidity clustering in these patients. 4.Multimorbidity is a strong predictor of unplanned medical events in patients with COPD and shows high potential to be used for personalized health risk prediction and service workflow selection. 5.Personalized health risk prediction was identified as a high potential tool for the integration and transfer of scientific evidence on multimorbidity to daily clinical practice. Limiting factors of its present applicability were explored and implementation strategies based on cloud computing solutions were proposed.