Researchers have developed a computer network model of a molecular community in brain cells of mammals in order to predict the targets and side effects of new drugs. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine have reported their findings in the latest issue of journal Science.
The study analyzes how molecular communities are organized and how connections within these communities enable groups of molecules and proteins to process and interpret information they receive.
Building and analyzing such networks in computers said the researchers, is the first major step in creating a virtual cell that can be used to identify drug targets and predict side effects of drugs. Like a social community or a sports team, a molecular community works together to achieve a common goal. Unlike humans who have six degrees of separation, molecules in a cell have only four degrees of separation. This closeness makes it essential to understand how these molecules function as a community to maintain a healthy state.
The study built a model to see how molecules within a brain cell interact with one another and communicates in order to respond to external stimuli. With this knowledge, researchers can now begin to look at how specific drugs can deliver their benefits to damaged or diseased cells and what side effects may arise, predict the scientists for the study.
"Each of our cells is like a complex machine with thousands of interconnected parts. This research is helping us understand how all of those parts communicate and interact. With this knowledge, we'll be better able to fix communication problems within the cell, as in the case of diabetes and many other diseases," said Richard Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., a geneticist at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which supported the work.