Big Data turns old drugs into new ones

Through algorithm drawn up in Italy

(ANSA) - Rome, November 18 - Big Data, biology and genomics have led to understanding how to create a new drug from an old one.
    An algorithm has been used to analyse the molecular properties of an existing drug used for treat some tumors and found that it also works against metabolic syndrome.
    The research study, published by Nature Communications, was led by the University of Trento. It shows how the approach can help 'drug repositioning', which is a new frontier of pharmacological research that uses new indications from existing drugs and the application of the newly identified drugs to the treatment of diseases other than the drug's intended disease.
    "This is an approach that has already been tried in the past and become a reality thanks to new technologies, which make a vast, systematic and fast analysis possible and which will become ever more powerful thanks to the massive amount of data on the human genome," ANSA was told by Enrico Domenici, President and Chief Executive Officer at The Microsoft Research - University of Trento Centre for Computational and Systems Biology (COSBI).
    The center was the one that created the algorithm at the basis of the research study. Researchers tested the algorithm to try to fund new treatments for metabolic syndrome, a pathological condition characterized by obesity, hyperglycemia, hypertension, elevated levels of triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that increase cardiovascular disease risk and type 2 diabetes. "By analysing the data on previous genetic studies conducted on hundreds of thousands of people," Domenici said, "we identified the mutant genes responsible for the alterations in metabolic syndrome." Then the researchers looked at a pharmaceutical databank to find the molecules already recorded that are able to interact with these genes. They then looked for which drug interacted with the largest number of genes involved in the condition and among the 1,000 drugs analysed, the most effective was found to be Ibrutinib, originally used to treat some lymphomas and forma of leukaemia. The result was later verified in the CIBIO department, specialised in biology and genomics, on zebrafish larvae. It was found that the drug managed to "fight against the inflammation accompanying the accumulation of lipids", said the head of the department's research unit, Maria Caterina Mione. "The data are preliminary, since more in-depth study will be required and then in-depth clinical testing," she said, "but they show how the method can help drug repurposing a great deal." These methods make it possible to shorten the timeline for a patient since "testing the effectiveness of a drug already on the market," Mione said, "makes it possible to skip lengthy steps that are necessary prior to putting a new product on the market, since tolerance and safety have already been ensured."