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1.  A Semantic Problem Solving Environment for Integrative Parasite Research: Identification of Intervention Targets for Trypanosoma cruzi 
Background
Research on the biology of parasites requires a sophisticated and integrated computational platform to query and analyze large volumes of data, representing both unpublished (internal) and public (external) data sources. Effective analysis of an integrated data resource using knowledge discovery tools would significantly aid biologists in conducting their research, for example, through identifying various intervention targets in parasites and in deciding the future direction of ongoing as well as planned projects. A key challenge in achieving this objective is the heterogeneity between the internal lab data, usually stored as flat files, Excel spreadsheets or custom-built databases, and the external databases. Reconciling the different forms of heterogeneity and effectively integrating data from disparate sources is a nontrivial task for biologists and requires a dedicated informatics infrastructure. Thus, we developed an integrated environment using Semantic Web technologies that may provide biologists the tools for managing and analyzing their data, without the need for acquiring in-depth computer science knowledge.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We developed a semantic problem-solving environment (SPSE) that uses ontologies to integrate internal lab data with external resources in a Parasite Knowledge Base (PKB), which has the ability to query across these resources in a unified manner. The SPSE includes Web Ontology Language (OWL)-based ontologies, experimental data with its provenance information represented using the Resource Description Format (RDF), and a visual querying tool, Cuebee, that features integrated use of Web services. We demonstrate the use and benefit of SPSE using example queries for identifying gene knockout targets of Trypanosoma cruzi for vaccine development. Answers to these queries involve looking up multiple sources of data, linking them together and presenting the results.
Conclusion/Significance
The SPSE facilitates parasitologists in leveraging the growing, but disparate, parasite data resources by offering an integrative platform that utilizes Semantic Web techniques, while keeping their workload increase minimal.
Author Summary
Effective research in parasite biology requires analyzing experimental lab data in the context of constantly expanding public data resources. Integrating lab data with public resources is particularly difficult for biologists who may not possess significant computational skills to acquire and process heterogeneous data stored at different locations. Therefore, we develop a semantic problem solving environment (SPSE) that allows parasitologists to query their lab data integrated with public resources using ontologies. An ontology specifies a common vocabulary and formal relationships among the terms that describe an organism, and experimental data and processes in this case. SPSE supports capturing and querying provenance information, which is metadata on the experimental processes and data recorded for reproducibility, and includes a visual query-processing tool to formulate complex queries without learning the query language syntax. We demonstrate the significance of SPSE in identifying gene knockout targets for T. cruzi. The overall goal of SPSE is to help researchers discover new or existing knowledge that is implicitly present in the data but not always easily detected. Results demonstrate improved usefulness of SPSE over existing lab systems and approaches, and support for complex query design that is otherwise difficult to achieve without the knowledge of query language syntax.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001458
PMCID: PMC3260319  PMID: 22272365
2.  SSWAP: A Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol for semantic web services 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:309.
Background
SSWAP (Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol; pronounced "swap") is an architecture, protocol, and platform for using reasoning to semantically integrate heterogeneous disparate data and services on the web. SSWAP was developed as a hybrid semantic web services technology to overcome limitations found in both pure web service technologies and pure semantic web technologies.
Results
There are currently over 2400 resources published in SSWAP. Approximately two dozen are custom-written services for QTL (Quantitative Trait Loci) and mapping data for legumes and grasses (grains). The remaining are wrappers to Nucleic Acids Research Database and Web Server entries. As an architecture, SSWAP establishes how clients (users of data, services, and ontologies), providers (suppliers of data, services, and ontologies), and discovery servers (semantic search engines) interact to allow for the description, querying, discovery, invocation, and response of semantic web services. As a protocol, SSWAP provides the vocabulary and semantics to allow clients, providers, and discovery servers to engage in semantic web services. The protocol is based on the W3C-sanctioned first-order description logic language OWL DL. As an open source platform, a discovery server running at (as in to "swap info") uses the description logic reasoner Pellet to integrate semantic resources. The platform hosts an interactive guide to the protocol at , developer tools at , and a portal to third-party ontologies at (a "swap meet").
Conclusion
SSWAP addresses the three basic requirements of a semantic web services architecture (i.e., a common syntax, shared semantic, and semantic discovery) while addressing three technology limitations common in distributed service systems: i.e., i) the fatal mutability of traditional interfaces, ii) the rigidity and fragility of static subsumption hierarchies, and iii) the confounding of content, structure, and presentation. SSWAP is novel by establishing the concept of a canonical yet mutable OWL DL graph that allows data and service providers to describe their resources, to allow discovery servers to offer semantically rich search engines, to allow clients to discover and invoke those resources, and to allow providers to respond with semantically tagged data. SSWAP allows for a mix-and-match of terms from both new and legacy third-party ontologies in these graphs.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-309
PMCID: PMC2761904  PMID: 19775460
3.  Applications and methods utilizing the Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol (SSWAP) for bioinformatics resource discovery and disparate data and service integration 
BioData Mining  2010;3:3.
Background
Scientific data integration and computational service discovery are challenges for the bioinformatic community. This process is made more difficult by the separate and independent construction of biological databases, which makes the exchange of data between information resources difficult and labor intensive. A recently described semantic web protocol, the Simple Semantic Web Architecture and Protocol (SSWAP; pronounced "swap") offers the ability to describe data and services in a semantically meaningful way. We report how three major information resources (Gramene, SoyBase and the Legume Information System [LIS]) used SSWAP to semantically describe selected data and web services.
Methods
We selected high-priority Quantitative Trait Locus (QTL), genomic mapping, trait, phenotypic, and sequence data and associated services such as BLAST for publication, data retrieval, and service invocation via semantic web services. Data and services were mapped to concepts and categories as implemented in legacy and de novo community ontologies. We used SSWAP to express these offerings in OWL Web Ontology Language (OWL), Resource Description Framework (RDF) and eXtensible Markup Language (XML) documents, which are appropriate for their semantic discovery and retrieval. We implemented SSWAP services to respond to web queries and return data. These services are registered with the SSWAP Discovery Server and are available for semantic discovery at http://sswap.info.
Results
A total of ten services delivering QTL information from Gramene were created. From SoyBase, we created six services delivering information about soybean QTLs, and seven services delivering genetic locus information. For LIS we constructed three services, two of which allow the retrieval of DNA and RNA FASTA sequences with the third service providing nucleic acid sequence comparison capability (BLAST).
Conclusions
The need for semantic integration technologies has preceded available solutions. We report the feasibility of mapping high priority data from local, independent, idiosyncratic data schemas to common shared concepts as implemented in web-accessible ontologies. These mappings are then amenable for use in semantic web services. Our implementation of approximately two dozen services means that biological data at three large information resources (Gramene, SoyBase, and LIS) is available for programmatic access, semantic searching, and enhanced interaction between the separate missions of these resources.
doi:10.1186/1756-0381-3-3
PMCID: PMC2894815  PMID: 20525377
4.  Mapping between the OBO and OWL ontology languages 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2011;2(Suppl 1):S3.
Background
Ontologies are commonly used in biomedicine to organize concepts to describe domains such as anatomies, environments, experiment, taxonomies etc. NCBO BioPortal currently hosts about 180 different biomedical ontologies. These ontologies have been mainly expressed in either the Open Biomedical Ontology (OBO) format or the Web Ontology Language (OWL). OBO emerged from the Gene Ontology, and supports most of the biomedical ontology content. In comparison, OWL is a Semantic Web language, and is supported by the World Wide Web consortium together with integral query languages, rule languages and distributed infrastructure for information interchange. These features are highly desirable for the OBO content as well. A convenient method for leveraging these features for OBO ontologies is by transforming OBO ontologies to OWL.
Results
We have developed a methodology for translating OBO ontologies to OWL using the organization of the Semantic Web itself to guide the work. The approach reveals that the constructs of OBO can be grouped together to form a similar layer cake. Thus we were able to decompose the problem into two parts. Most OBO constructs have easy and obvious equivalence to a construct in OWL. A small subset of OBO constructs requires deeper consideration. We have defined transformations for all constructs in an effort to foster a standard common mapping between OBO and OWL. Our mapping produces OWL-DL, a Description Logics based subset of OWL with desirable computational properties for efficiency and correctness. Our Java implementation of the mapping is part of the official Gene Ontology project source.
Conclusions
Our transformation system provides a lossless roundtrip mapping for OBO ontologies, i.e. an OBO ontology may be translated to OWL and back without loss of knowledge. In addition, it provides a roadmap for bridging the gap between the two ontology languages in order to enable the use of ontology content in a language independent manner.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-2-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC3105495  PMID: 21388572
5.  A journey to Semantic Web query federation in the life sciences 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10(Suppl 10):S10.
Background
As interest in adopting the Semantic Web in the biomedical domain continues to grow, Semantic Web technology has been evolving and maturing. A variety of technological approaches including triplestore technologies, SPARQL endpoints, Linked Data, and Vocabulary of Interlinked Datasets have emerged in recent years. In addition to the data warehouse construction, these technological approaches can be used to support dynamic query federation. As a community effort, the BioRDF task force, within the Semantic Web for Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group, is exploring how these emerging approaches can be utilized to execute distributed queries across different neuroscience data sources.
Methods and results
We have created two health care and life science knowledge bases. We have explored a variety of Semantic Web approaches to describe, map, and dynamically query multiple datasets. We have demonstrated several federation approaches that integrate diverse types of information about neurons and receptors that play an important role in basic, clinical, and translational neuroscience research. Particularly, we have created a prototype receptor explorer which uses OWL mappings to provide an integrated list of receptors and executes individual queries against different SPARQL endpoints. We have also employed the AIDA Toolkit, which is directed at groups of knowledge workers who cooperatively search, annotate, interpret, and enrich large collections of heterogeneous documents from diverse locations. We have explored a tool called "FeDeRate", which enables a global SPARQL query to be decomposed into subqueries against the remote databases offering either SPARQL or SQL query interfaces. Finally, we have explored how to use the vocabulary of interlinked Datasets (voiD) to create metadata for describing datasets exposed as Linked Data URIs or SPARQL endpoints.
Conclusion
We have demonstrated the use of a set of novel and state-of-the-art Semantic Web technologies in support of a neuroscience query federation scenario. We have identified both the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies. While Semantic Web offers a global data model including the use of Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI's), the proliferation of semantically-equivalent URI's hinders large scale data integration. Our work helps direct research and tool development, which will be of benefit to this community.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S10-S10
PMCID: PMC2755818  PMID: 19796394
6.  Semantic Web-Based Integration of Cancer Pathways and Allele Frequency Data 
Cancer Informatics  2009;8:19-30.
We demonstrate the use of Semantic Web technology to integrate the ALFRED allele frequency database and the Starpath pathway resource. The linking of population-specific genotype data with cancer-related pathway data is potentially useful given the growing interest in personalized medicine and the exploitation of pathway knowledge for cancer drug discovery. We model our data using the Web Ontology Language (OWL), drawing upon ideas from existing standard formats BioPAX for pathway data and PML for allele frequency data. We store our data within an Oracle database, using Oracle Semantic Technologies. We then query the data using Oracle’s rule-based inference engine and SPARQL-like RDF query language. The ability to perform queries across the domains of population genetics and pathways offers the potential to answer a number of cancer-related research questions. Among the possibilities is the ability to identify genetic variants which are associated with cancer pathways and whose frequency varies significantly between ethnic groups. This sort of information could be useful for designing clinical studies and for providing background data in personalized medicine. It could also assist with the interpretation of genetic analysis results such as those from genome-wide association studies.
PMCID: PMC2664696  PMID: 19458791
7.  Improving integrative searching of systems chemical biology data using semantic annotation 
Background
Systems chemical biology and chemogenomics are considered critical, integrative disciplines in modern biomedical research, but require data mining of large, integrated, heterogeneous datasets from chemistry and biology. We previously developed an RDF-based resource called Chem2Bio2RDF that enabled querying of such data using the SPARQL query language. Whilst this work has proved useful in its own right as one of the first major resources in these disciplines, its utility could be greatly improved by the application of an ontology for annotation of the nodes and edges in the RDF graph, enabling a much richer range of semantic queries to be issued.
Results
We developed a generalized chemogenomics and systems chemical biology OWL ontology called Chem2Bio2OWL that describes the semantics of chemical compounds, drugs, protein targets, pathways, genes, diseases and side-effects, and the relationships between them. The ontology also includes data provenance. We used it to annotate our Chem2Bio2RDF dataset, making it a rich semantic resource. Through a series of scientific case studies we demonstrate how this (i) simplifies the process of building SPARQL queries, (ii) enables useful new kinds of queries on the data and (iii) makes possible intelligent reasoning and semantic graph mining in chemogenomics and systems chemical biology.
Availability
Chem2Bio2OWL is available at http://chem2bio2rdf.org/owl. The document is available at http://chem2bio2owl.wikispaces.com.
doi:10.1186/1758-2946-4-6
PMCID: PMC3320537  PMID: 22401035
8.  A Semantic Model for Species Description Applied to the Ensign Wasps (Hymenoptera: Evaniidae) of New Caledonia 
Systematic Biology  2013;62(5):639-659.
Taxonomic descriptions are unparalleled sources of knowledge of life's phenotypic diversity. As natural language prose, these data sets are largely refractory to computation and integration with other sources of phenotypic data. By formalizing taxonomic descriptions using ontology-based semantic representation, we aim to increase the reusability and computability of taxonomists' primary data. Here, we present a revision of the ensign wasp (Hymenoptera: Evaniidae) fauna of New Caledonia using this new model for species description. Descriptive matrices, specimen data, and taxonomic nomenclature are gathered in a unified Web-based application, mx, then exported as both traditional taxonomic treatments and semantic statements using the OWL Web Ontology Language. Character:character-state combinations are then annotated following the entity–quality phenotype model, originally developed to represent mutant model organism phenotype data; concepts of anatomy are drawn from the Hymenoptera Anatomy Ontology and linked to phenotype descriptors from the Phenotypic Quality Ontology. The resulting set of semantic statements is provided in Resource Description Framework format. Applying the model to real data, that is, specimens, taxonomic names, diagnoses, descriptions, and redescriptions, provides us with a foundation to discuss limitations and potential benefits such as automated data integration and reasoner-driven queries. Four species of ensign wasp are now known to occur in New Caledonia: Szepligetella levipetiolata, Szepligetella deercreeki Deans and Mikó sp. nov., Szepligetella irwini Deans and Mikó sp. nov., and the nearly cosmopolitan Evania appendigaster. A fifth species, Szepligetella sericea, including Szepligetella impressa, syn. nov., has not yet been collected in New Caledonia but can be found on islands throughout the Pacific and so is included in the diagnostic key. [Biodiversity informatics; Evaniidae; New Caledonia; new species; ontology; semantic phenotypes; semantic species description; taxonomy.]
doi:10.1093/sysbio/syt028
PMCID: PMC3739881  PMID: 23652347
9.  An ontology-driven semantic mash-up of gene and biological pathway information: Application to the domain of nicotine dependence 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2008;41(5):752-765.
Objectives
This paper illustrates how Semantic Web technologies (especially RDF, OWL, and SPARQL) can support information integration and make it easy to create semantic mashups (semantically integrated resources). In the context of understanding the genetic basis of nicotine dependence, we integrate gene and pathway information and show how three complex biological queries can be answered by the integrated knowledge base.
Methods
We use an ontology-driven approach to integrate two gene resources (Entrez Gene and HomoloGene) and three pathway resources (KEGG, Reactome and BioCyc), for five organisms, including humans. We created the Entrez Knowledge Model (EKoM), an information model in OWL for the gene resources, and integrated it with the extant BioPAX ontology designed for pathway resources. The integrated schema is populated with data from the pathway resources, publicly available in BioPAX-compatible format, and gene resources for which a population procedure was created. The SPARQL query language is used to formulate queries over the integrated knowledge base to answer the three biological queries.
Results
Simple SPARQL queries could easily identify hub genes, i.e., those genes whose gene products participate in many pathways or interact with many other gene products. The identification of the genes expressed in the brain turned out to be more difficult, due to the lack of a common identification scheme for proteins.
Conclusion
Semantic Web technologies provide a valid framework for information integration in the life sciences. Ontology-driven integration represents a flexible, sustainable and extensible solution to the integration of large volumes of information. Additional resources, which enable the creation of mappings between information sources, are required to compensate for heterogeneity across namespaces.
Resource page
http://knoesis.wright.edu/research/lifesci/integration/structured_data/JBI-2008/
doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2008.02.006
PMCID: PMC2766186  PMID: 18395495
Semantic Web; Semantic mashup; Nicotine dependence; Information integration; Ontologies
10.  Semantically enabling a genome-wide association study database 
Background
The amount of data generated from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) has grown rapidly, but considerations for GWAS phenotype data reuse and interchange have not kept pace. This impacts on the work of GWAS Central – a free and open access resource for the advanced querying and comparison of summary-level genetic association data. The benefits of employing ontologies for standardising and structuring data are widely accepted. The complex spectrum of observed human phenotypes (and traits), and the requirement for cross-species phenotype comparisons, calls for reflection on the most appropriate solution for the organisation of human phenotype data. The Semantic Web provides standards for the possibility of further integration of GWAS data and the ability to contribute to the web of Linked Data.
Results
A pragmatic consideration when applying phenotype ontologies to GWAS data is the ability to retrieve all data, at the most granular level possible, from querying a single ontology graph. We found the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terminology suitable for describing all traits (diseases and medical signs and symptoms) at various levels of granularity and the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) most suitable for describing phenotypic abnormalities (medical signs and symptoms) at the most granular level. Diseases within MeSH are mapped to HPO to infer the phenotypic abnormalities associated with diseases. Building on the rich semantic phenotype annotation layer, we are able to make cross-species phenotype comparisons and publish a core subset of GWAS data as RDF nanopublications.
Conclusions
We present a methodology for applying phenotype annotations to a comprehensive genome-wide association dataset and for ensuring compatibility with the Semantic Web. The annotations are used to assist with cross-species genotype and phenotype comparisons. However, further processing and deconstructions of terms may be required to facilitate automatic phenotype comparisons. The provision of GWAS nanopublications enables a new dimension for exploring GWAS data, by way of intrinsic links to related data resources within the Linked Data web. The value of such annotation and integration will grow as more biomedical resources adopt the standards of the Semantic Web.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-3-9
PMCID: PMC3579732  PMID: 23244533
Ontology; Phenotype; GWAS; RDF
11.  Developing a semantically rich ontology for the biobank-administration domain 
Background
Biobanks are a critical resource for translational science. Recently, semantic web technologies such as ontologies have been found useful in retrieving research data from biobanks. However, recent research has also shown that there is a lack of data about the administrative aspects of biobanks. These data would be helpful to answer research-relevant questions such as what is the scope of specimens collected in a biobank, what is the curation status of the specimens, and what is the contact information for curators of biobanks. Our use cases include giving researchers the ability to retrieve key administrative data (e.g. contact information, contact's affiliation, etc.) about the biobanks where specific specimens of interest are stored. Thus, our goal is to provide an ontology that represents the administrative entities in biobanking and their relations. We base our ontology development on a set of 53 data attributes called MIABIS, which were in part the result of semantic integration efforts of the European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI). The previous work on MIABIS provided the domain analysis for our ontology. We report on a test of our ontology against competency questions that we derived from the initial BBMRI use cases. Future work includes additional ontology development to answer additional competency questions from these use cases.
Results
We created an open-source ontology of biobank administration called Ontologized MIABIS (OMIABIS) coded in OWL 2.0 and developed according to the principles of the OBO Foundry. It re-uses pre-existing ontologies when possible in cooperation with developers of other ontologies in related domains, such as the Ontology of Biomedical Investigation. OMIABIS provides a formalized representation of biobanks and their administration. Using the ontology and a set of Description Logic queries derived from the competency questions that we identified, we were able to retrieve test data with perfect accuracy. In addition, we began development of a mapping from the ontology to pre-existing biobank data structures commonly used in the U.S.
Conclusions
In conclusion, we created OMIABIS, an ontology of biobank administration. We found that basing its development on pre-existing resources to meet the BBMRI use cases resulted in a biobanking ontology that is re-useable in environments other than BBMRI. Our ontology retrieved all true positives and no false positives when queried according to the competency questions we derived from the BBMRI use cases. Mapping OMIABIS to a data structure used for biospecimen collections in a medical center in Little Rock, AR showed adequate coverage of our ontology.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-4-23
PMCID: PMC4021870  PMID: 24103726
12.  Gauging triple stores with actual biological data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 1):S3.
Background
Semantic Web technologies have been developed to overcome the limitations of the current Web and conventional data integration solutions. The Semantic Web is expected to link all the data present on the Internet instead of linking just documents. One of the foundations of the Semantic Web technologies is the knowledge representation language Resource Description Framework (RDF). Knowledge expressed in RDF is typically stored in so-called triple stores (also known as RDF stores), from which it can be retrieved with SPARQL, a language designed for querying RDF-based models. The Semantic Web technologies should allow federated queries over multiple triple stores. In this paper we compare the efficiency of a set of biologically relevant queries as applied to a number of different triple store implementations.
Results
Previously we developed a library of queries to guide the use of our knowledge base Cell Cycle Ontology implemented as a triple store. We have now compared the performance of these queries on five non-commercial triple stores: OpenLink Virtuoso (Open-Source Edition), Jena SDB, Jena TDB, SwiftOWLIM and 4Store. We examined three performance aspects: the data uploading time, the query execution time and the scalability. The queries we had chosen addressed diverse ontological or biological questions, and we found that individual store performance was quite query-specific. We identified three groups of queries displaying similar behaviour across the different stores: 1) relatively short response time queries, 2) moderate response time queries and 3) relatively long response time queries. SwiftOWLIM proved to be a winner in the first group, 4Store in the second one and Virtuoso in the third one.
Conclusions
Our analysis showed that some queries behaved idiosyncratically, in a triple store specific manner, mainly with SwiftOWLIM and 4Store. Virtuoso, as expected, displayed a very balanced performance - its load time and its response time for all the tested queries were better than average among the selected stores; it showed a very good scalability and a reasonable run-to-run reproducibility. Jena SDB and Jena TDB were consistently slower than the other three implementations. Our analysis demonstrated that most queries developed for Virtuoso could be successfully used for other implementations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC3471352  PMID: 22373359
13.  Towards ontology-driven navigation of the lipid bibliosphere 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9(Suppl 1):S5.
Background
The indexing of scientific literature and content is a relevant and contemporary requirement within life science information systems. Navigating information available in legacy formats continues to be a challenge both in enterprise and academic domains. The emergence of semantic web technologies and their fusion with artificial intelligence techniques has provided a new toolkit with which to address these data integration challenges. In the emerging field of lipidomics such navigation challenges are barriers to the translation of scientific results into actionable knowledge, critical to the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's syndrome, Mycobacterium infections and cancer.
Results
We present a literature-driven workflow involving document delivery and natural language processing steps generating tagged sentences containing lipid, protein and disease names, which are instantiated to custom designed lipid ontology. We describe the design challenges in capturing lipid nomenclature, the mandate of the ontology and its role as query model in the navigation of the lipid bibliosphere. We illustrate the extent of the description logic-based A-box query capability provided by the instantiated ontology using a graphical query composer to query sentences describing lipid-protein and lipid-disease correlations.
Conclusion
As scientists accept the need to readjust the manner in which we search for information and derive knowledge we illustrate a system that can constrain the literature explosion and knowledge navigation problems. Specifically we have focussed on solving this challenge for lipidomics researchers who have to deal with the lack of standardized vocabulary, differing classification schemes, and a wide array of synonyms before being able to derive scientific insights. The use of the OWL-DL variant of the Web Ontology Language (OWL) and description logic reasoning is pivotal in this regard, providing the lipid scientist with advanced query access to the results of text mining algorithms instantiated into the ontology. The visual query paradigm assists in the adoption of this technology.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-S1-S5
PMCID: PMC2259406  PMID: 18315858
14.  Sig2BioPAX: Java tool for converting flat files to BioPAX Level 3 format 
Background
The World Wide Web plays a critical role in enabling molecular, cell, systems and computational biologists to exchange, search, visualize, integrate, and analyze experimental data. Such efforts can be further enhanced through the development of semantic web concepts. The semantic web idea is to enable machines to understand data through the development of protocol free data exchange formats such as Resource Description Framework (RDF) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). These standards provide formal descriptors of objects, object properties and their relationships within a specific knowledge domain. However, the overhead of converting datasets typically stored in data tables such as Excel, text or PDF into RDF or OWL formats is not trivial for non-specialists and as such produces a barrier to seamless data exchange between researchers, databases and analysis tools. This problem is particularly of importance in the field of network systems biology where biochemical interactions between genes and their protein products are abstracted to networks.
Results
For the purpose of converting biochemical interactions into the BioPAX format, which is the leading standard developed by the computational systems biology community, we developed an open-source command line tool that takes as input tabular data describing different types of molecular biochemical interactions. The tool converts such interactions into the BioPAX level 3 OWL format. We used the tool to convert several existing and new mammalian networks of protein interactions, signalling pathways, and transcriptional regulatory networks into BioPAX. Some of these networks were deposited into PathwayCommons, a repository for consolidating and organizing biochemical networks.
Conclusions
The software tool Sig2BioPAX is a resource that enables experimental and computational systems biologists to contribute their identified networks and pathways of molecular interactions for integration and reuse with the rest of the research community.
doi:10.1186/1751-0473-6-5
PMCID: PMC3071313  PMID: 21418653
15.  Semantic SenseLab: implementing the vision of the Semantic Web in neuroscience 
Summary
Objective
Integrative neuroscience research needs a scalable informatics framework that enables semantic integration of diverse types of neuroscience data. This paper describes the use of the Web Ontology Language (OWL) and other Semantic Web technologies for the representation and integration of molecular-level data provided by several of SenseLab suite of neuroscience databases.
Methods
Based on the original database structure, we semi-automatically translated the databases into OWL ontologies with manual addition of semantic enrichment. The SenseLab ontologies are extensively linked to other biomedical Semantic Web resources, including the Subcellular Anatomy Ontology, Brain Architecture Management System, the Gene Ontology, BIRNLex and UniProt. The SenseLab ontologies have also been mapped to the Basic Formal Ontology and Relation Ontology, which helps ease interoperability with many other existing and future biomedical ontologies for the Semantic Web. In addition, approaches to representing contradictory research statements are described. The SenseLab ontologies are designed for use on the Semantic Web that enables their integration into a growing collection of biomedical information resources.
Conclusion
We demonstrate that our approach can yield significant potential benefits and that the Semantic Web is rapidly becoming mature enough to realize its anticipated promises. The ontologies are available online at http://neuroweb.med.yale.edu/senselab/
doi:10.1016/j.artmed.2009.11.003
PMCID: PMC3131218  PMID: 20006477
Semantic Web; neuroscience; description logic; ontology mapping; Web Ontology Language; integration
16.  CNTRO 2.0: A Harmonized Semantic Web Ontology for Temporal Relation Inferencing in Clinical Narratives 
The Clinical Narrative Temporal Relation Ontology (CNTRO) has been developed for the purpose of allowing temporal information of clinical data to be semantically annotated and queried, and using inference to expose new temporal features and relations based on the semantic assertions and definitions of the temporal aspects in the ontology. While CNTRO provides a formal semantic foundation to leverage the semantic-web techniques, it is still necessary to arrive at a shared set of semantics and operational rules with commonly used ontologies for the time domain. This paper introduces CNTRO 2.0, which tries to harmonize CNTRO 1.0 and a list of existing time ontologies or top-level ontologies into a unified model—an OWL based ontology of temporal relations for clinical research.
PMCID: PMC3248753  PMID: 22211182
17.  AlzPharm: integration of neurodegeneration data using RDF 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 3):S4.
Background
Neuroscientists often need to access a wide range of data sets distributed over the Internet. These data sets, however, are typically neither integrated nor interoperable, resulting in a barrier to answering complex neuroscience research questions. Domain ontologies can enable the querying heterogeneous data sets, but they are not sufficient for neuroscience since the data of interest commonly span multiple research domains. To this end, e-Neuroscience seeks to provide an integrated platform for neuroscientists to discover new knowledge through seamless integration of the very diverse types of neuroscience data. Here we present a Semantic Web approach to building this e-Neuroscience framework by using the Resource Description Framework (RDF) and its vocabulary description language, RDF Schema (RDFS), as a standard data model to facilitate both representation and integration of the data.
Results
We have constructed a pilot ontology for BrainPharm (a subset of SenseLab) using RDFS and then converted a subset of the BrainPharm data into RDF according to the ontological structure. We have also integrated the converted BrainPharm data with existing RDF hypothesis and publication data from a pilot version of SWAN (Semantic Web Applications in Neuromedicine). Our implementation uses the RDF Data Model in Oracle Database 10g release 2 for data integration, query, and inference, while our Web interface allows users to query the data and retrieve the results in a convenient fashion.
Conclusion
Accessing and integrating biomedical data which cuts across multiple disciplines will be increasingly indispensable and beneficial to neuroscience researchers. The Semantic Web approach we undertook has demonstrated a promising way to semantically integrate data sets created independently. It also shows how advanced queries and inferences can be performed over the integrated data, which are hard to achieve using traditional data integration approaches. Our pilot results suggest that our Semantic Web approach is suitable for realizing e-Neuroscience and generic enough to be applied in other biomedical fields.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-S3-S4
PMCID: PMC1892101  PMID: 17493287
18.  Semantic inference using chemogenomics data for drug discovery 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:256.
Background
Semantic Web Technology (SWT) makes it possible to integrate and search the large volume of life science datasets in the public domain, as demonstrated by well-known linked data projects such as LODD, Bio2RDF, and Chem2Bio2RDF. Integration of these sets creates large networks of information. We have previously described a tool called WENDI for aggregating information pertaining to new chemical compounds, effectively creating evidence paths relating the compounds to genes, diseases and so on. In this paper we examine the utility of automatically inferring new compound-disease associations (and thus new links in the network) based on semantically marked-up versions of these evidence paths, rule-sets and inference engines.
Results
Through the implementation of a semantic inference algorithm, rule set, Semantic Web methods (RDF, OWL and SPARQL) and new interfaces, we have created a new tool called Chemogenomic Explorer that uses networks of ontologically annotated RDF statements along with deductive reasoning tools to infer new associations between the query structure and genes and diseases from WENDI results. The tool then permits interactive clustering and filtering of these evidence paths.
Conclusions
We present a new aggregate approach to inferring links between chemical compounds and diseases using semantic inference. This approach allows multiple evidence paths between compounds and diseases to be identified using a rule-set and semantically annotated data, and for these evidence paths to be clustered to show overall evidence linking the compound to a disease. We believe this is a powerful approach, because it allows compound-disease relationships to be ranked by the amount of evidence supporting them.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-256
PMCID: PMC3225082  PMID: 21699718
19.  Logical Gene Ontology Annotations (GOAL): exploring gene ontology annotations with OWL 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2012;3(Suppl 1):S3.
Motivation
Ontologies such as the Gene Ontology (GO) and their use in annotations make cross species comparisons of genes possible, along with a wide range of other analytical activities. The bio-ontologies community, in particular the Open Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) community, have provided many other ontologies and an increasingly large volume of annotations of gene products that can be exploited in query and analysis. As many annotations with different ontologies centre upon gene products, there is a possibility to explore gene products through multiple ontological perspectives at the same time. Questions could be asked that link a gene product’s function, process, cellular location, phenotype and disease. Current tools, such as AmiGO, allow exploration of genes based on their GO annotations, but not through multiple ontological perspectives. In addition, the semantics of these ontology’s representations should be able to, through automated reasoning, afford richer query opportunities of the gene product annotations than is currently possible.
Results
To do this multi-perspective, richer querying of gene product annotations, we have created the Logical Gene Ontology, or GOAL ontology, in OWL that combines the Gene Ontology, Human Disease Ontology and the Mammalian Phenotype Ontology, together with classes that represent the annotations with these ontologies for mouse gene products. Each mouse gene product is represented as a class, with the appropriate relationships to the GO aspects, phenotype and disease with which it has been annotated. We then use defined classes to query these protein classes through automated reasoning, and to build a complex hierarchy of gene products. We have presented this through a Web interface that allows arbitrary queries to be constructed and the results displayed.
Conclusion
This standard use of OWL affords a rich interaction with Gene Ontology, Human Disease Ontology and Mammalian Phenotype Ontology annotations for the mouse, to give a fine partitioning of the gene products in the GOAL ontology. OWL in combination with automated reasoning can be effectively used to query across ontologies to ask biologically rich questions. We have demonstrated that automated reasoning can be used to deliver practical on-line querying support for the ontology annotations available for the mouse.
Availability
The GOAL Web page is to be found at http://owl.cs.manchester.ac.uk/goal.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-3-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC3337258  PMID: 22541594
20.  Time-related patient data retrieval for the case studies from the pharmacogenomics research network 
Journal of medical systems  2012;36(Suppl 1):37-42.
There are lots of question-based data elements from the pharmacogenomics research network (PGRN) studies. Many data elements contain temporal information. To semantically represent these elements so that they can be machine processiable is a challenging problem for the following reasons: (1) the designers of these studies usually do not have the knowledge of any computer modeling and query languages, so that the original data elements usually are represented in spreadsheets in human languages; and (2) the time aspects in these data elements can be too complex to be represented faithfully in a machine-understandable way.
In this paper, we introduce our efforts on representing these data elements using semantic web technologies. We have developed an ontology, CNTRO, for representing clinical events and their temporal relations in the web ontology language (OWL). Here we use CNTRO to represent the time aspects in the data elements. We have evaluated 720 time-related data elements from PGRN studies. We adapted and extended the knowledge representation requirements for EliXR-TIME to categorize our data elements. A CNTRO-based SPARQL query builder has been developed to customize users’ own SPARQL queries for each knowledge representation requirement. The SPARQL query builder has been evaluated with a simulated EHR triple store to ensure its functionalities.
doi:10.1007/s10916-012-9888-1
PMCID: PMC3600379  PMID: 23076712
21.  CiTO, the Citation Typing Ontology 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2010;1(Suppl 1):S6.
CiTO, the Citation Typing Ontology, is an ontology for describing the nature of reference citations in scientific research articles and other scholarly works, both to other such publications and also to Web information resources, and for publishing these descriptions on the Semantic Web. Citation are described in terms of the factual and rhetorical relationships between citing publication and cited publication, the in-text and global citation frequencies of each cited work, and the nature of the cited work itself, including its publication and peer review status. This paper describes CiTO and illustrates its usefulness both for the annotation of bibliographic reference lists and for the visualization of citation networks. The latest version of CiTO, which this paper describes, is CiTO Version 1.6, published on 19 March 2010. CiTO is written in the Web Ontology Language OWL, uses the namespace http://purl.org/net/cito/, and is available from http://purl.org/net/cito/. This site uses content negotiation to deliver to the user an OWLDoc Web version of the ontology if accessed via a Web browser, or the OWL ontology itself if accessed from an ontology management tool such as Protégé 4 (http://protege.stanford.edu/). Collaborative work is currently under way to harmonize CiTO with other ontologies describing bibliographies and the rhetorical structure of scientific discourse.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-1-S1-S6
PMCID: PMC2903725  PMID: 20626926
22.  A Query Integrator and Manager for the Query Web 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2012;45(5):975-991.
We introduce two concepts: the Query Web as a layer of interconnected queries over the document web and the semantic web, and a Query Web Integrator and Manager (QI) that enables the Query Web to evolve. QI permits users to write, save and reuse queries over any web accessible source, including other queries saved in other installations of QI. The saved queries may be in any language (e.g. SPARQL, XQuery); the only condition for interconnection is that the queries return their results in some form of XML. This condition allows queries to chain off each other, and to be written in whatever language is appropriate for the task. We illustrate the potential use of QI for several biomedical use cases, including ontology view generation using a combination of graph-based and logical approaches, value set generation for clinical data management, image annotation using terminology obtained from an ontology web service, ontology-driven brain imaging data integration, small-scale clinical data integration, and wider-scale clinical data integration. Such use cases illustrate the current range of applications of QI and lead us to speculate about the potential evolution from smaller groups of interconnected queries into a larger query network that layers over the document and semantic web. The resulting Query Web could greatly aid researchers and others who now have to manually navigate through multiple information sources in order to answer specific questions.
doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2012.03.008
PMCID: PMC3408576  PMID: 22531831
Ontologies; data integration; semantic web; query web
23.  Semantic querying of relational data for clinical intelligence: a semantic web services-based approach 
Background
Clinical Intelligence, as a research and engineering discipline, is dedicated to the development of tools for data analysis for the purposes of clinical research, surveillance, and effective health care management. Self-service ad hoc querying of clinical data is one desirable type of functionality. Since most of the data are currently stored in relational or similar form, ad hoc querying is problematic as it requires specialised technical skills and the knowledge of particular data schemas.
Results
A possible solution is semantic querying where the user formulates queries in terms of domain ontologies that are much easier to navigate and comprehend than data schemas. In this article, we are exploring the possibility of using SADI Semantic Web services for semantic querying of clinical data. We have developed a prototype of a semantic querying infrastructure for the surveillance of, and research on, hospital-acquired infections.
Conclusions
Our results suggest that SADI can support ad-hoc, self-service, semantic queries of relational data in a Clinical Intelligence context. The use of SADI compares favourably with approaches based on declarative semantic mappings from data schemas to ontologies, such as query rewriting and RDFizing by materialisation, because it can easily cope with situations when (i) some computation is required to turn relational data into RDF or OWL, e.g., to implement temporal reasoning, or (ii) integration with external data sources is necessary.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-4-9
PMCID: PMC3698140  PMID: 23497556
24.  Federated ontology-based queries over cancer data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 1):S9.
Background
Personalised medicine provides patients with treatments that are specific to their genetic profiles. It requires efficient data sharing of disparate data types across a variety of scientific disciplines, such as molecular biology, pathology, radiology and clinical practice. Personalised medicine aims to offer the safest and most effective therapeutic strategy based on the gene variations of each subject. In particular, this is valid in oncology, where knowledge about genetic mutations has already led to new therapies. Current molecular biology techniques (microarrays, proteomics, epigenetic technology and improved DNA sequencing technology) enable better characterisation of cancer tumours. The vast amounts of data, however, coupled with the use of different terms - or semantic heterogeneity - in each discipline makes the retrieval and integration of information difficult.
Results
Existing software infrastructures for data-sharing in the cancer domain, such as caGrid, support access to distributed information. caGrid follows a service-oriented model-driven architecture. Each data source in caGrid is associated with metadata at increasing levels of abstraction, including syntactic, structural, reference and domain metadata. The domain metadata consists of ontology-based annotations associated with the structural information of each data source. However, caGrid's current querying functionality is given at the structural metadata level, without capitalising on the ontology-based annotations. This paper presents the design of and theoretical foundations for distributed ontology-based queries over cancer research data. Concept-based queries are reformulated to the target query language, where join conditions between multiple data sources are found by exploiting the semantic annotations. The system has been implemented, as a proof of concept, over the caGrid infrastructure. The approach is applicable to other model-driven architectures. A graphical user interface has been developed, supporting ontology-based queries over caGrid data sources. An extensive evaluation of the query reformulation technique is included.
Conclusions
To support personalised medicine in oncology, it is crucial to retrieve and integrate molecular, pathology, radiology and clinical data in an efficient manner. The semantic heterogeneity of the data makes this a challenging task. Ontologies provide a formal framework to support querying and integration. This paper provides an ontology-based solution for querying distributed databases over service-oriented, model-driven infrastructures.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S1-S9
PMCID: PMC3471355  PMID: 22373043
25.  PREDOSE: A Semantic Web Platform for Drug Abuse Epidemiology using Social Media 
Journal of biomedical informatics  2013;46(6):10.1016/j.jbi.2013.07.007.
Objectives
The role of social media in biomedical knowledge mining, including clinical, medical and healthcare informatics, prescription drug abuse epidemiology and drug pharmacology, has become increasingly significant in recent years. Social media offers opportunities for people to share opinions and experiences freely in online communities, which may contribute information beyond the knowledge of domain professionals. This paper describes the development of a novel Semantic Web platform called PREDOSE (PREscription Drug abuse Online Surveillance and Epidemiology), which is designed to facilitate the epidemiologic study of prescription (and related) drug abuse practices using social media. PREDOSE uses web forum posts and domain knowledge, modeled in a manually created Drug Abuse Ontology (DAO) (pronounced dow), to facilitate the extraction of semantic information from User Generated Content (UGC). A combination of lexical, pattern-based and semantics-based techniques is used together with the domain knowledge to extract fine-grained semantic information from UGC. In a previous study, PREDOSE was used to obtain the datasets from which new knowledge in drug abuse research was derived. Here, we report on various platform enhancements, including an updated DAO, new components for relationship and triple extraction, and tools for content analysis, trend detection and emerging patterns exploration, which enhance the capabilities of the PREDOSE platform. Given these enhancements, PREDOSE is now more equipped to impact drug abuse research by alleviating traditional labor-intensive content analysis tasks.
Methods
Using custom web crawlers that scrape UGC from publicly available web forums, PREDOSE first automates the collection of web-based social media content for subsequent semantic annotation. The annotation scheme is modeled in the DAO, and includes domain specific knowledge such as prescription (and related) drugs, methods of preparation, side effects, routes of administration, etc. The DAO is also used to help recognize three types of data, namely: 1) entities, 2) relationships and 3) triples. PREDOSE then uses a combination of lexical and semantic-based techniques to extract entities and relationships from the scraped content, and a top-down approach for triple extraction that uses patterns expressed in the DAO. In addition, PREDOSE uses publicly available lexicons to identify initial sentiment expressions in text, and then a probabilistic optimization algorithm (from related research) to extract the final sentiment expressions. Together, these techniques enable the capture of fine-grained semantic information from UGC, and querying, search, trend analysis and overall content analysis of social media related to prescription drug abuse. Moreover, extracted data are also made available to domain experts for the creation of training and test sets for use in evaluation and refinements in information extraction techniques.
Results
A recent evaluation of the information extraction techniques applied in the PREDOSE platform indicates 85% precision and 72% recall in entity identification, on a manually created gold standard dataset. In another study, PREDOSE achieved 36% precision in relationship identification and 33% precision in triple extraction, through manual evaluation by domain experts. Given the complexity of the relationship and triple extraction tasks and the abstruse nature of social media texts, we interpret these as favorable initial results. Extracted semantic information is currently in use in an online discovery support system, by prescription drug abuse researchers at the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research (CITAR) at Wright State University.
Conclusion
A comprehensive platform for entity, relationship, triple and sentiment extraction from such abstruse texts has never been developed for drug abuse research. PREDOSE has already demonstrated the importance of mining social media by providing data from which new findings in drug abuse research were uncovered. Given the recent platform enhancements, including the refined DAO, components for relationship and triple extraction, and tools for content, trend and emerging pattern analysis, it is expected that PREDOSE will play a significant role in advancing drug abuse epidemiology in future.
doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2013.07.007
PMCID: PMC3844051  PMID: 23892295
Entity Identification; Relationship Extraction; Triple Extraction; Sentiment Extraction; Semantic Web; Drug Abuse Ontology; Prescription Drug Abuse; Epidemiology

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