Friday, 1 September 2017

Yeast helps hunt for new medicines

Scientists have developed a new way to predict potentially useful drugs from a pool of undefined chemicals. They were able to more quickly identify leads that could be used to treat a range of diseases, from infections, to cancer to Alzheimer's. The finding will also help better match drugs to a disease to maximize the benefit and reduce side-effects.

The study, published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, tested how nearly 14,000 compounds, hundreds of which were previously unexplored, affect basic cellular processes, to alert drug makers towards chemicals that are most likely to target a particular disease. The data pointed to ~1000 chemicals, many of which are natural products derived from soil microbes, as a rich source of potential medicines against a many diseases, including infections, Alzheimer's and cancer.

Despite modern technology, drug discovery still largely rests on guesswork. To find a drug that, say, kills cancer cells, scientists sift through libraries containing thousands of chemical compounds, the majority of which will have no effect at all.

Yeasts are currently the only living organism in which scientists have a good handle on the basic cellular processes, such as DNA replication and repair, energy production, and transport of cargo molecules, allowing them to link a drug to a particular bioprocess. Because natural compounds were shaped by evolution to act on living organisms, they are better candidates for future medicines than synthetic compounds that often do not even get into the cells.

For further details see:

Jeff S Piotrowski, Sheena C Li, Raamesh Deshpande, Scott W Simpkins, Justin Nelson, Yoko Yashiroda, Jacqueline M Barber, Hamid Safizadeh, Erin Wilson, Hiroki Okada, Abraham A Gebre, Karen Kubo, Nikko P Torres, Marissa A LeBlanc, Kerry Andrusiak, Reika Okamoto, Mami Yoshimura, Eva DeRango-Adem, Jolanda van Leeuwen, Katsuhiko Shirahige, Anastasia Baryshnikova, Grant W Brown, Hiroyuki Hirano, Michael Costanzo, Brenda Andrews, Yoshikazu Ohya, Hiroyuki Osada, Minoru Yoshida, Chad L Myers, Charles Boone. Functional annotation of chemical libraries across diverse biological processesNature Chemical Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2436