Researchers are using a new approach to predict the side effects of hundreds of medications. The research team led by Dr. Brian K. Shoichet at the University of California in San Francisco, and Dr. Laszlo Urban at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research developed the new approach by using a computational method to calculate, based on chemical structure, what molecules a drug might bind to in the body.
While the new method can’t replace laboratory testing, it may be able to identify problems early in the drug development process. It could also help to streamline drug development and help researchers find new uses for existing drugs.
The ability to predict these side effects in advance would help doctors develop strategies to avoid or counteract them. However, anticipating what side effects a drug could have in the body has always been a daunting task.
The researchers selected 656 drugs that have been approved for human use and 73 proteins that are known targets for adverse drug reactions. They then calculated how likely each drug was to bind to the 73 targets.
“The biggest surprise was just how promiscuous the drugs were, with each drug hitting more than 10 percent of the targets and how often the side-effect targets were unrelated to the previously known target of the drugs,” Shoichet reports “That would have been hard to predict using standard scientific approaches”.
The research was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Institute on Aging. Their research report appeared online June 10, 2012 in the publication “Nature”.