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Researchers Create Molecular Manual

MONDAY, Dec. 29 -- The first catalog of tissue-specific changes associated with hundreds of diseases has been compiled by an international research team, who said the information could help improve understanding and treatment of numerous conditions such as heart disease, breast cancer, autism and Parkinson's disease.

"Disease processes in humans are far from being exhaustively understood and characterized, in part because they are the result of complex interactions between many molecules that may take place only in specific tissues or organs," co-author Kasper Lage, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories, said in a news release from the hospital.

"Experiments to directly study these interactions in human patients would not be possible, which limits our understanding of how diseases arise and which molecules and genes are involved," Lage said.

In the research, supercomputers were used to "model biological processes in tissues across the human organism, based on the knowledge from millions of already published articles," explained co-author Niclas Tue Hansen, of the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis, Technical University of Denmark. "In this way, we were able to create an extensive map of the interactions of molecules in many diseases -- a sort of molecular manual -- without carrying out experiments in patients."

The research was reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our findings have the potential to advance the knowledge of pathways, genes and proteins involved in hundreds of human disorders and perhaps contribute to better treatment strategies for some of these serious diseases," co-corresponding author Dr. Patricia Donahoe, a professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, said in the news release.

More information

The catalog is available at the Web site of the Center for Biological Sequence Analysis.

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Posted: December 2008