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Researchers use AI to identify drugs that could be repurposed for Alzheimer’s

Eli Lilly's JAK inhibitor Olumiant identified as a potential treatment for repurposing

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachussetts General Hospital have revealed which drugs could be potentially repurposed as possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease using artificial intelligence (AI).

The research team developed an AI-based method that enabled them to screen US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications for their potential as repurposed Alzheimer’s treatments.

The study, published in Nature Communications, used a framework called DRIAD (Drug Repurposing in Alzheimer’s Disease) which uses machine learning to measure what happens to human brain neural cells when treated with a drug.

Using this method, the researchers could determine if the changes induced by a drug correlate with molecular markers of disease severity.

The researchers also used the DRIAD method to assess which proteins are targeted by the most promising drugs and if there are common trends among the targets.

As part of the research, the team applied the DRIAD method to 80 FDA-approved and clinically tested drugs that are used to treat a number of conditions.

Following this initial screening stage, the analysis produced a ranked list of candidates, which included several anti-inflammatory drugs in the Januse kinase (JAK) inhibitor class.

JAK inhibitors are commonly used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and blood cancers, and block the action of JAK proteins, which play a role in inflammation and are also thought to be indicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

"Repurposing FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer's disease is an attractive idea that can help accelerate the arrival of effective treatment, but unfortunately, even for previously approved drugs, clinical trials require substantial resources, making it impossible to evaluate every drug in patients with Alzheimer's disease," said Artem Sokolov, director of Informatics and Modeling at the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School.

"We therefore built a framework for prioritising drugs, helping clinical studies to focus on the most promising ones,” he added.

One of the drugs identified using the DRIAD method was Eli Lilly’s Olumiant (baricitinib), which will be investigated in a clinical trial for patients with subjective cognitive complaints, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

The research team said in a statement that their analyses also indicated that there were other potential treatment targets that warranted further investigation.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

10th March 2021

From: Research

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