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Drugs are not equally effective for everyone. To some extent, this is due to the fact that people’s bodies will take up a pharmaceutical substance to varying degrees. Little research has been done in the past to determine whether this is the main reason for the individual differences or one of many.

A group of researchers headed by Ruedi Aebersold, a professor of systems biology at ETH Zurich, has now shed some light on the subject in their report published in the journal Cell Systems. The researchers performed detailed measurements of proteins and metabolites in cell culture experiments and succeeded in showing that the differing effects between individuals could not be attributed to a single factor or a few factors. Instead, the researchers found that many small differences together are responsible for the large variation.

Tests with a cholesterol-lowering drug

In order to investigate the variable effects of drugs, the scientists analysed cholesterol regulation in four different human cell lines. They tested how the cells responded differently to various drugs that affect cholesterol levels. In cooperation with ETH professor Uwe Sauer, the researchers used methods from the fields of systems biology, proteomics and metabolomics to measure and compare the

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