From Genome to Drug
Bioinformatics played a decisive role in the most prominent scientific achievements during recent years, the sequencing of the human genome. With the sequence being known, the annotation of the genome can begin.
This means searching for genes in DNA , identifying the corresponding gene products (proteins, RNA), as well as determining their structure and function.
To fully understand protein function, one has to consider their interplay. These interactions are represented by metabolic and regulatory networks which, among other things, allow for simulating metabolic processes. Bioinformatics methods are used to find the reasons for genetically caused diseases to find new possibilities for therapies.
In general, drugs act by influencing the proteins that are involved in metabolism. Based on the assembly of the human genome, bioinformatics methods allow researchers to find proteins (Targets) that are better suited for treating certain diseases.
Bioinformatics delivers important contributions to the development of new drugs. Databases enable the search through large amounts of data in order to find new candidate drugs (screening, docking), that are efficient, have fewer side-effects and are capable of reaching the right destination in the body (crossing of biological barriers).
Bioinformatics supports the optimization of known therapies. The comparison of complete genomes of different individuals makes it possible to trace differences (i.e. SNPs), which may play a role when deciding on the individual therapy for a patient.
Viral infections present a great challenge for drug development and therapy. The fact that viruses like HIV show high genomic variability, can result in the occurrence of viral mutations that confer resistance to the prescribed drugs.
Therefore a physician is faced rather frequently with the problem of finding a new therapy for each patient infected with a particular strain. Bioinformatics methods have been developed to understand the relationship between viral mutations and drug resistance, leading to better therapeutic strategies.