ML approach looks to repurpose existing drugs against Covid-19

February 16, 2021 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Machine-learning to find Covid-19 treatment options
A system using machine learning has been developed to identify drugs that might be repurposed to fight Covid-19, especially in elderly patients.

A team of researchers has developed a machine learning-based approach to identify drugs already on the market that could potentially be repurposed to fight Covid-19, particularly in the elderly.

"Making new drugs takes forever," says Caroline Uhler, a computational biologist in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Institute for Data, Systems and Society, and an associate member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. "Really, the only expedient option is to repurpose existing drugs."

The system developed by Uhler’s team accounts for changes in gene expression in lung cells caused by both the disease and aging. That combination could allow medical experts to more quickly seek drugs for clinical testing in elderly patients, who tend to experience more severe symptoms. The researchers pinpointed the protein RIPK1 as a promising target for Covid-19 drugs, and they identified three approved drugs that act on the expression of RIPK1.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications. Co-authors include MIT PhD students Anastasiya Belyaeva, Adityanarayanan Radhakrishnan, Chandler Squires, and Karren Dai Yang, as well as PhD student Louis Cammarata of Harvard University and long-term collaborator G.V. Shivashankar of ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

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