31 July 2017

Artificial intelligence is used to fight premature aging

Healthy aging

Molecular researchers from the University of Copenhagen have joined forces with an artificial intelligence company specialising in aging mechanisms to fight premature aging. Hopefully, the collaboration will lead to the development of drugs to treat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cardiovascular diseases.

The largest risk factor associated with Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases and Parkinson’s disease is aging. Experts in DNA and aging from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences have joined forces with the American company Insilico Medicine, which specialises in artificial intelligence (AI), to find molecules that can be used in the development of new drugs against aging-associated diseases. The hope is to ensure healthy aging for everyone.

“My group focuses on diseases resulting in accelerated aging. Such diseases are caused by mutations in the genes that repair DNA, thereby providing us with unique molecular knowledge of the aging process. People with unrepairable DNA will age quickly. The collaboration with Insilico Medicine gives us the chance to find molecules with the ability to repair DNA and prevent early aging,” says Morten Scheibye-Knudsen, molecular researcher, medical doctor and assistant professor from Center for Healthy Aging and Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Healthy aging for everyone
Insilico Medicine uses algorithms to investigate aging processes and develop drugs against age-related diseases. Treatment of the diseases requires expression of repair genes. By using an artificial intelligence method known as deep learning to sort data sets for gene expression, the company is able to discover which molecules can stimulate DNA repair.

”Deep learning systems are outperforming human abilities in many tasks including image recognition and autonomous driving. But the area, where artificial intelligence (AI) will have the most impact is drug discovery and we are deeply honoured to be able to partner with professor Scheibye-Knudsen’s group at the University of Copenhagen, which is one of the best in the world. I hope that together we will be able to find new molecules to extend healthy longevity and make humans more resistant to the various stress factors”, said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, founder and CEO of Insilico Medicine, Inc.

In the Copenhagen laboratories, the molecular researchers can then test whether the selected molecules actually work – and if they do, whether they can form the basis for the development of new drugs.

“We hope that the collaboration can lead to the development of new types of drugs which can prevent premature aging and thus ensure healthy aging for everyone. If we can find some molecules with the ability to repair our DNA, it is not unthinkable that we can continue to increase the limit on human lifespan,” says Morten Scheibye-Knudsen.

The collaboration has already resulted in a research article dealing with the use of artificial intelligence in image analysis.

Center for Healthy Aging is supported by the Danish foundation Nordea-fonden.

About Insilico Medicine, Inc
Insilico Medicine, Inc. is an artificial intelligence company located at the Emerging Technology Centers at the Johns Hopkins University Eastern campus in Baltimore, with R&D resources in Belgium, Russia, and the UK sourced through hackathons and competitions. The company utilises advances in genomics, big data analysis, and deep learning for in silico drug discovery and drug repurposing for ageing and age-related diseases. The company is pursuing internal drug discovery programs in cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, ALS, diabetes, sarcopenia, and ageing. Through its Pharma.AI division, Insilico provides advanced machine learning services to biotechnology, pharmaceutical and skin care companies, foundations and national governments globally. In 2017, NVIDIA selected Insilico Medicine as one of the Top 5 AI companies in its potential for social impact.

Brief video about Insilico Medicine

About the Scheibye-Knudsen Laboratory
The growing proportion of the elderly population represents an increasing socioeconomic burden, not least because of age-associated diseases. It is therefore increasingly pertinent to find interventions for age-associated diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and cardiovascular diseases. Although the cause of aging is currently unknown accumulation of damage to our genome, the DNA, may be a contributing factor.

The Scheibye-Knudsen lab tries to understand the cellular and organismal consequences of DNA damage with the aim of developing interventions. We have discovered that DNA damage leads to changes in certain metabolites and that replenishment of these molecules may alter the rate of aging in model organisms. These findings suggest that normal aging and age-associated diseases may be malleable to similar interventions. The hope is to develop interventions that will allow everyone to live healthier, happier and more productive lives.

Assistant Professor Morten Scheibye-Knudsen
Mail: mscheibye@sund.ku.dk
Phone: +45 42 50 70 60