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New drug targeting method for microbial pathogens developed using in silico cell
A ripple effect is expected on the new antibacterial discovery using “in silico” cells Featured as a journal cover paper of Molecular BioSystems A research team of Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee at KAIST recently constructed an in silico cell of a microbial pathogen that is resistant to antibiotics and developed a new drug targeting method that could effectively disrupt the pathogen"s growth using the in silico cell. Hyun Uk Kim, a graduate research assistant at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, KAIST, conducted this study as a part of his thesis research, and the study was featured as a journal cover paper in the February issue of Molecular BioSystems this year, published by The Royal Society of Chemistry based in Europe. It was relatively easy to treat infectious microbes using antibiotics in the past. However, the overdose of antibiotics has caused pathogens to increase their resistance to various antibiotics, and it has become more difficult to cure infectious diseases these days. A representative microbial pathogen is Acinetobacter baumannaii. Originally isolated from soils and water, this microorganism did not have resistance to antibiotics, and hence it was easy to eradicate them if infected. However, within a decade, this miroorganism has transformed into a dreadful super-bacterium resistant to antibiotics and caused many casualties among the U.S. and French soldiers who were injured from the recent Iraqi war and infected with Acinetobacter baumannaii. Professor Lee’s group constructed an in silico cell of this A. baumannii by computationally collecting, integrating, and analyzing the biological information of the bacterium, scattered over various databases and literatures, in order to study this organism"s genomic features and system-wide metabolic characteristics. Furthermore, they employed this in silico cell for integrative approaches, including several network analysis and analysis of essential reactions and metabolites, to predict drug targets that effectively disrupt the pathogen"s growth. Final drug targets are the ones that selectively kill pathogens without harming human body. Here, essential reactions refer to enzymatic reactions required for normal metabolic functioning in organisms, while essential metabolites indicate chemical compounds required in the metabolism for proper functioning, and their removal brings about the effect of simultaneously disrupting their associated enzymes that interact with them. This study attempted to predict highly reliable drug targets by systematically scanning biological components, including metabolic genes, enzymatic reactions, that constitute an in silico cell in a short period of time. This research achievement is highly regarded as it, for the first time, systematically scanned essential metabolites for the effective drug targets using the concept of systems biology, and paved the way for a new antibacterial discovery. This study is also expected to contribute to elucidating the infectious mechanism caused by pathogens. "Although tons of genomic information is poured in at this moment, application research that efficiently converts this preliminary information into actually useful information is still lagged behind. In this regard, this study is meaningful in that medically useful information is generated from the genomic information of Acinetobacter baumannii," says Professor Lee. "In particular, development of this organism"s in silico cell allows generation of new knowledge regarding essential genes and enzymatic reactions under specific conditions," he added. This study was supported by the Korean Systems Biology Project of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and the patent for the development of in silico cells of microbial pathogens and drug targeting methods has been filed. [Picture 1 Cells in silico] [Picture 2 A process of generating drug targets without harming human body while effectively disrupting the growth of a pathogen, after predicting metabolites from in silico cells]
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