Using drugs as molecular probes: A computational chemical biology approach in neurodegenerative diseases
Neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease are complex to tackle because of the complexity of the brain, both in structure and function. Such complexity is reflected by the involvement of various brain regions and multiple pathways in the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases that render single drug target approaches ineffective. Particularly in the area of neurodegeneration, attention has been drawn to repurposing existing drugs with proven efficacy and safety profiles. However, there is a lack of systematic analysis of the brain chemical space to predict the feasibility of repurposing strategies. Using a mechanism-based, drug-target interaction modeling approach, we have identified promising drug candidates for repositioning. Mechanistic cause-and-effect models consolidate relevant prior knowledge on drugs, targets, and pathways from the scientific literature and integrate insights derived from experimental data. We demonstrate the power of this approach by predicting two repositioning candidates for Alzheimer's disease and one for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.