Mining the human genome could spot Ebola targets

January 16, 2015 − by Suzanne Elvidge − in Big data, Data mining, Drug development − No Comments

The Ebola virus causes a serious and often fatal infection, and has led to around 20,700 cases and over 8000 deaths in West Africa, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. US researchers have been mining into the human genome to see if they can find clues there to target the deadly disease.

The Ebola virus is highly infectious, and there are concerns that it could become a pandemic. There are no vaccines or approved drugs yet available to tackle Ebola virus disease (Ebola) and prevent its spread, and health care workers depend on protective clothing and providing supportive care such as fluid replacement, nutritional support, pain control, and blood pressure maintenance. In some cases, patients may be fortunate enough to be treated with experimental drugs.

To try to find targets for drugs, researchers mined the genome for Ebola association, using genetic association, disease-oriented knowledge database text mining, transcriptome-based metaanalysis and pathway enrichment analysis.

“Bioinformatics is a powerful tool to help us understand biological data,” said Ramaswamy Narayanan of Florida Atlantic University. “We are mining the human genome for Ebola virus association to develop an understanding of the human proteins involved in this disease for subsequent research and development, and to potentially create a pipeline of targets that we can test and evaluate.”

This process found genes for 45 human proteins, including 29 known and 16 previously uncharacterized proteins. In the next step, the team mined proteomic expression databases and found the proteins in a variety of body fluids.

When the team cross-checked the drug databases using these genes as targets, they found antineoplastics, anti-inflammatory drugs, leukotrienes, interferons, anticoagulants, nucleoside analogues, retinoic acid and statins that could have potential in Ebola supportive care.

“With the high mortality rate of this disease, the world urgently needs new ways to treat patients,” said Narayanan. “The ability to use drugs that are already approved by the FDA could provide clinicians with more options to treat Ebola patients, rather than just relying on supportive measures like fluid replacement or antibiotics.”

The next step will be to use knockout technology to verify the therapeutic potential of the 45 proteins identified. This approach could also have potential in finding potential targets in other disease areas. The research was published in MedCrave Online Journal of Proteomics and Bioinformatics.

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