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Pharmacophylogenomics

11/10/07

  02:51:55 pm, by Nimble   , 246 words  
Categories: Science

Pharmacophylogenomics

Now that is a heck of a mouthful of a word. It's the field of application of the theory of evolution to drug discovery.

Now it's not a matter of making things evolve, but rather taking advantage of the effects of common ancestry and the gene and protein data that comes from that analysis to help with drug discovery, disease modeling, and in some cases to find out the limits of working with other animals.

This article by David Searls is a fantastic, albeit necessarily jargon-filled, summary of the field.

The drug companies are most interested in orthologs, which are gene sequences that are essentially the same gene in two different species. They do not always retain the same functionality, but often they do, and this helps much in analysis.

Since testing in humans is the often the last step, it can be frustrating to bring a drug so far and have the different metabolism of the test animals be the real reason that the drug was failing in testing. From the article:

A strong motivation for the further study of orthology of drug targets is the fact that species differences of various kinds — for instance, in pathophysiology or drug metabolism — frequently hamper the progression of targets and compounds, often after quite significant investment. This indicates that even a marginally improved understanding of species differences could have a major impact on the cost of developing medicines.

This is the practical side of the theory of evolution.

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