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Drug design

From Academic Kids

Drug design is the approach of finding drugs by design, based on what the drug is targeting. Typically a drug target is a key molecule involved in a particular metabolic or signalling pathway that is specific to a disease condition or pathology.

Some approaches attempt to stop the functioning of the pathway in the diseased state by causing a key molecule to stop functioning. Drugs may be designed that bind to the active region and inhibit this key molecule. However these drugs would also have to be designed in such a way as not to affect any other important molecules that may be similar in appearance to the key molecules. Sequence homologies are often used to identify such risks.

Other approaches may be to enhance the normal pathway by promoting specific molecules in the normal pathways that may have been affected in the diseased state.

The structure of the drug molecule that can specifically interact with the biomolecules can be attempted using computational tools. These tools can allow a drug molecule to be constructed within the biomolecule using knowledge of its structure and the nature of its active site. Construction of the drug molecule can be made inside out or outside in depending on whether the core or the R-groups are chosen first. However many of these approaches are plagued by the practical problems of chemical synthesis.

There are also serious concerns on whether these approaches are 'philosophically correct' in their approach to actually curing a condition since they often target symptoms rather than causes.

Newer approaches have also suggested the use of drug molecules that are large and proteinaceous in nature rather than as small molecules. There have also been suggestions to make these using mRNA. Gene silencing may also have therapeutical applications.

Examples of designed drugs

Rational drug design

Unlike the historical method of drug discovery, by trial-and-error testing of chemical substances on animals, and matching the apparent effects to treatments, rational drug design begins with a knowledge of specific chemical responses in the body, and tailoring combinations of these to fit a treatment profile.

An important case study in rational drug design is imatinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor designed specifically for the bcr-abl fusion protein that is characteristic for Philadelphia chromosome-positive leukemias (chronic myelogenous leukemia and occasionally acute lymphocytic leukemia). Imatinib is substantially different from previous drugs for cancer, as most agents of chemotherapy simply target rapidly dividing cells, not differentiating between cancer cells and other tissues.

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