A UK-based biotechnology company has developed the first commercially available model of human metabolism: Snapshot. Snapshot has many uses, including the diagnosis of diseases, pharmaceutical development, and education.
There are different ways to use the software. One option is to enter the gene expression profile of a patient and identify any genetic conditions. This is useful when a patient presents an unfamiliar combination of symptoms, and it allows the genes involved with these symptoms to be pinpointed.
Snapshot could be used to improve gene therapy. Gene therapy involves manipulating the genes of a patient, such as inactivating a gene, or replacing faulty genes with healthy copies. Gene therapy is a fast-growing field: scientists recently used it to restore vision in blind mice. In the future, software like Snapshot could be used as a precursor to gene therapy: faulty genes would be targeted by Snapshot and replaced or inactivated by gene therapy. The consequences of the genetic change could be predicted by Snapshot prior to the therapy.
The software can also be used to help treat cancer. Recombinant proteins are used as therapeutic agents and can target cancerous tumours. Recombinant proteins can be produced in animal cells, and to maximise the production of recombinant proteins these cells need to have an optimal environment. Snapshot can be used to identify the genes involved in the production of a specific metabolite which may be required for the production of the recombinant proteins. These genes can be targeted via genetic engineering to optimise the cellular environment for the production of specific recombinant proteins.
Snapshot has a lot of potential but is currently limited with regards to the number of genes and diseases it has support for. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how it is used to make discoveries and improve treatment methods.
A free demo of the software is available from Scarborough Biotechnology’s website, and the full version is due to be released soon for £15.