Myers and Int’l Team Look to Baker’s Yeast for Better Drugs

July 24, 2017

Continuing their award-winning genetic interaction research, Associate Professor Chad Myers and his team from the Myers Lab have joined with an international team of scientists from Canada and Japan to look at how yeast can be used to create better drugs. Recently reported in Nature Chemical Biology, the team’s most recent study has the potential to further accelerate discovery of the chemicals that are most likely to target a particular cellular process.

The international team’s work builds upon Myers’ previous research that helped create the first complete genetic interaction network of a yeast cell—one that helps explain how thousands of genes coordinate with one another to orchestrate cellular life.

In this latest study, the team designed a new computational and experimental approach for quickly and cheaply determining which cellular processes are affected by a molecular compound of interest. They applied this approach to study more than 13,000 compounds, thousands of which were previously unexplored, to discover which cellular processes were affected by each chemical. Understanding precisely how chemicals affect cells is the first step toward finding new drugs to target certain diseases. The study identified nearly 1000 chemicals with specific biological effects that could potentially be used in medicines to treat a range of diseases, from infections, to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

“Our approach provides a new way to rapidly characterize the effects of chemicals on cells, which can be used for a variety of applications—from more efficient drug discovery, to identification of new chemical probes for lab research, to characterizing the effects of toxins on cells,” said Myers. “We developed the approach in yeast, but this is a generalizable approach—both the experimental and computational aspects of the technology will translate to many different species.”

Several graduate and undergraduate students from the Myers Lab contributed significantly to this effort including Raamesh Deshpande, Scott Simpkins, Justin Nelson, Hamid Safizadeh, and Erin Wilson. To carry out this groundbreaking work, the Myers Lab collaborated with  the labs of Professor Charles Boone, from the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre, and Professor Minoru Yoshida and Hiroyuki Osada, from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan

To read more about their study, head to The Donnelly Centre’s website to read their in-depth article “Scientists enlist baker’s yeast to find new medicines,” or explore the entire study on Nature Chemical Biology’s website.

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