Data-Mining for New Treatments

A new database helps scientist predict new uses for existing drugs.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.


Learn about our editorial policies.

Aug 18, 2011

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, POLLO

Repurposing existing drugs for new uses is not a new thing, but when it happens, it’s usually little more than a happy accident—a lucky observation or a fortuitous mistake. Now, scientists are taking the chance out of the equation (see The Scientist’s recent feature on this topic). The latest in a string of efforts to streamline repurposing efforts, bioinformatician Atul Butte of Stanford University School of Medicine in California and his colleagues compiled a database that collates information on gene activity profiles for the 25,000+ human genes, and how they're  affected by drugs and disease.

"This promises new uses for drugs that have already been tested for their safety and offers a faster and cheaper way to new medicine," Butte told ScienceNOW.

So far, the team has examined data for 100 diseases and 164 drug molecules, and found drug candidates for 53 different diseases,...

Though these two drugs are not necessarily likely to be approved— topiramate, for example, has side effects such as behavioral changes and cognitive problems—researchers are hopeful that the approach will lead to more fruitful findings in the future. "This is a really important concept," John Overington, a computational chemical biologist at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, UK, told ScienceNOW. “It is almost like they are looking for an antidote to a disease.”

 

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?