Artificial intelligence (AI) has been used to discover three drugs which could help stave off the effects of ageing and associated diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
A study by the University of Edinburgh used an AI algorithm to find a trio of chemicals which can target faulty cells, which could be hundreds of times cheaper than standard screening methods.
The researchers’ findings suggest that the drugs can remove defective cells – known as senescent cells – linked to diseases and declines in eyesight and mobility.
Previous studies have looked at these cells but this is the first time chemicals which can safely remove them have been identified.
Senolytic drugs are often highly toxic against normal, healthy cells in the body, the team said.
The researchers trained a machine learning model to recognise the key features of chemicals with senolytic activity, using data from more than 2,500 chemical structures discovered in previous studies.
The team then used the models to screen more than 4,000 chemicals, identifying 21 potential drug candidates for experimental testing.
The chemicals – called ginkgetin, periplocin and oleandrin – were found to be able to remove the defective cells when tested on human cells.
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All three chemicals are natural products found in traditional herbal medicines.
Co-author Dr Diego Oyarzún said: “This study demonstrates that AI can be incredibly effective in helping us identify new drug candidates, particularly at early stages of drug discovery and for diseases with complex biology or few known molecular targets.”