CHAPEL HILL Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and the University of California, San Francisco have developed and experimentally tested a technique to predict new target diseases for existing drugs.
The researchers developed a computational method that compares how similar the structures of all known drugs are to the naturally occurring binding partners -- known as ligands -- of disease targets within the cell. In a study published this week in Nature, the scientists showed that the method predicts potential new uses as well as unexpected side effects of approved drugs.
"This approach uncovered interactions between drugs and targets that we never could have predicted simply by looking at the chemical structures," said senior study author Bryan Roth, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and director of the National Institute of Mental Health Psychoactive Drug Screening Program at UNC. "We may now have a way to predict what side effects are likely to occur from treatment before we even put a drug into clinical testing." Roth is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Many of the most successful drugs on the market today are being prescribed for ailments that are quite different from the ones they were originally designed to treat. Viagra, for instance, was once intended for coronary heart disease but now is used to combat erectile dysfunction. The discovery of surprising uses of developed drugs can sometimes be the result of serendipity, as unforeseen side effects emerge from clinical trials. In the past, researchers have tried to predict drug interactions by looking for chemical similarities among the possible targets of pharmaceutical compounds.
However, some drug targets which look very similar to one another bind very different ligands, and some targets that don't have any obvious similarity bind similar ligands, says Brian Shoichet, P
|Contact: Les Lang|
University of North Carolina School of Medicine