Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Using the model, researchers can input which genes are expressed in a diseased tissue and get as an output the metabolic pathways in which these genes are involved–as opposed to painstakingly searching the scientific literature for information one gene at a time. For example, in the case of the liver, the model might tell researchers that a gene overexpressed in cancerous liver tissue is involved in specific metabolic reactions, creating particular products. Researchers might then look for a drug that targets these pathways or products. “There are very large-scale metabolic shifts in cancer tissue,” Regev says.

James Collins, professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University, has already begun using network-level approaches to understanding cancer, and he says he will use Palsson’s model in his research. “You can look at differentially expressed genes in a patient with prostate cancer,” says Collins. “Among those, are there pathways that indicate the underlying processes of the disease?” It will “enable us to filter and condense complex data and identify drug targets.”

What’s more, the model could help researchers better understand and optimize existing drugs. “It’s difficult to figure out which genes are affected indirectly by a drug,” says Collins. “You want to know what you’re hitting to get better chemistry, stronger intellectual property, and understand side effects.” Palsson points out that because the network can identify multiple ways to generate the same outcome, it may help drug companies come up with compounds that have the same effects–alternatives to statin drugs like Lipitor, for example–without violating their competitors’ patents.

1 comment. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego

Tagged: Biomedicine, cancer, genome, drugs, disease, bacteria, gene expression

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me