Researchers have created the first freely available data network — called HDNetDB — that aims to advance research into Huntington’s disease and speed up drug discovery for the incurable condition.
The approach, described in an article in the journal Scientific Reports, particularly focuses on the complex molecular workings that characterize the disease. The network is needed, researchers say, since it’s difficult to make sense of the huge amounts of data generated today when information is not processed together.
The publication showcasing the network, “HDNetDB: A Molecular Interaction Database for Network-Oriented Investigations into Huntington’s Disease,” explains how it works but also used a case study to illustrate how it can be used to identify new treatments.
“Huntington’s disease is especially devastating for affected families, since we can nowadays exactly predict who will be affected later in life, but we cannot yet provide any cure,” Matthias Futschik, professor of bioinformatics at the University of Plymouth’s School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, said in a press release. Futschik leads the network project.
“So, it is important that those scientists seeking effective therapies are not hampered by poor access to the vast array of data related to the disease and can connect the different pathological [disease causing] mechanisms,” he added.
In recent years, new technologies have emerged that allow researchers to gain access to data describing, for instance, the activity of all genes in a certain cell or the interactions of various genes.
But the sheer amount of data make it difficult to analyze it in a meaningful manner — a factor that has hampered research advances.
HDNetDB overcomes this issue by using tools that are capable of analyzing data from different sources, and presents scientists with visualizations of how various molecular events are related.
“In HDNetDB we have developed a computational tool which allows those scientists free and open access, helping them to identify new molecular targets for the development of new drug strategies for the disease,” Futschik said.
“We believe that our approach can be applied to other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and could facilitate the development of new therapies for these diseases, too.”