Database May Expand Treatment Options for Similar Diseases

The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database is able to identify genetically similar diseases and could repurpose medications to treat these conditions.

In 2 recent studies, a database was updated to include chemical-gene interactions to detect diseases with genetic similarities.

The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD) was created by researchers from North Carolina State University to curate and code data from certain scientific literature that discusses environmental chemicals and how it affects human genes and health.

"CTD is the only freely available database of its sort," said lead investigator Carolyn Mattingly, PhD. "It centralizes scientific data on thousands of chemicals and their relationships to genes, molecular pathways and diseases, and combines this information with tools to help scientists explore the impact of environmental exposures on human health."

The database now includes information from exposure science articles, which researchers believe complements the experimental data included. According to the first study, PhD-level biocurators read the 3000 published articles included and hand-curated 54 types of data, including the chemical involved, demographic information, how the chemical was measured, and effects that include disease outcomes.

"Combining this information with the more than 30 million chemical-gene-disease interactions already in CTD really expands the way users can analyze the data, by grounding experimental data in real-world contexts and providing mechanistic information to population-based studies," concluded researcher Cynthia Grondin, PhD.

In the second study, published by PLOS ONE, a new method to find biological similarities between diseases was created. Researchers believe this method could impact drug development and treatment options, since drugs could be developed to treat several diseases to save time and money.

In this study, researchers looked at overlapping genes that play a role in each of the diseases. The more genes the diseases had in common, the more likely it was that a drug could be repurposed to treat both; however, sometimes all involved genes are not known.

Researchers took the catalog of associated genes and added this data to a separate data set, Gene Ontology (GO), which provides the gene product’s molecular function, its cellular location, and its biological process. According to the study, the researchers were able to link more than 15,000 GO annotations to 4200 diseases, which allowed them to detect biological similarities above the individual gene level.

Researchers created a matrix that compared the diseases and their GO annotations and then sorted the data to find the pairs of diseases with the largest GO overlaps. Then, drugs that could be potentially repurposed to treat other diseases were identified.

The researchers discovered 39 drugs used to treat nerve cell cancer as potential treatments for chronic B-cell leukemia.

"The potential is amazing. Pharmaceutical scientists can use this free resource to test new avenues for drug repositioning and potentially expanded treatment options,” concluded lead author Allan Peter David, PhD.