Online database of disease genes created

Washington: Scientists, including Indian-origin researchers, have created a massive online database that matches thousands of genes linked to cancer and other diseases with drugs that target those genes.

 Researchers, including those from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, developed the database which includes more than 14,000 drug-gene interactions involving 2,600 genes and 6,300 drugs that target those genes.

 Another 6,700 genes are in the database because they potentially could be targeted with future drugs.

 "We wanted to create a comprehensive database that is user-friendly, something along the lines of a Google search engine for disease genes," explained Malachi Griffith, a research instructor in genetics, who developed the database with his twin brother, Obi Griffith.

 "As we move toward personalised medicine, there's a lot of interest in knowing whether drugs can target mutated genes in particular patients or in certain diseases, like breast or lung cancer. But there hasn't been an easy way to find that information," Malachi said.

 The database is weighted heavily toward cancer genes but also includes genes involved in Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses.

 The Griffiths created the database with a team of scientists at The Genome Institute at Washington University in St Louis.

 The database is easy to search and geared toward researchers and physician-scientists who want to know whether errors in disease genes - identified through genome sequencing or other methods - potentially could be targeted with existing drug therapies.

 Additional genes included in the database could be the focus of future drug development efforts because they belong to classes of genes that are thought to make promising drug targets.

 However, researchers cautioned the database, which is publicly available and free to use, is intended for research purposes and that it does not recommend treatments.

 The new database brings together information from 15 publicly available databases in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

 Users can enter the name of a single gene or lists of many genes to retrieve drugs targeting those genes. The search provides the names of drugs targeted to each gene and details whether the drug is an inhibitor, antibody, vaccine or another type.

 Other researchers who contributed to the database, details of which are reported in the journal Nature Methods, include Janakiraman Subramanian, Ramaswamy Govindan, Runjun D Kumar and Ron Bose.