ARTEMIS: helping make sense of ALS

ALS, or Lou Gehrig disease, or MND as it is known outside of USA, is a complicated disease. Actually, it seems probable that it is not even a single disease but rather a group of more or less similar diseases, all with the similar outcome: progressive loss of motor function, paralysis and death by suffocation within a few years of symptom onset. ALS kills, depending on the country, about 1/500 to 1/1000 of citizens. No effective treatment exists and trials looking for monotherapeutic drugs keep failing.

It is possible that failure to account for the different disease varieties is one reason to repeated failures in drug development. However, there is a vast and rapidly increasing amount of research data concerning different biological processes and proteins that affect the processes that have been found to be anomalous in people with ALS. The problem is that the information is too scattered to enable establishing a proper big picture of ALS.

Project ARTEMIS aims at building the big picture of ALS with the immediate goal of enabling one to distinguish between different forms of ALS so that specific therapeutics can be developed for those patients in whom they are effective. The idea is to develop computer programs to help humans in making sense of the vast but unorganized research data by finding connections between different observations and helping to recognize the cause from the effect in different biological anomalies. The first part of the project, ATRO, concentrates on designing the first version of the data search engine and the system database.

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