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1.  Systems Medicine: from molecular features and models to the clinic in COPD 
Journal of Translational Medicine  2014;12(Suppl 2):S4.
Background and hypothesis
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients are characterized by heterogeneous clinical manifestations and patterns of disease progression. Two major factors that can be used to identify COPD subtypes are muscle dysfunction/wasting and co-morbidity patterns. We hypothesized that COPD heterogeneity is in part the result of complex interactions between several genes and pathways. We explored the possibility of using a Systems Medicine approach to identify such pathways, as well as to generate predictive computational models that may be used in clinic practice.
Objective and method
Our overarching goal is to generate clinically applicable predictive models that characterize COPD heterogeneity through a Systems Medicine approach. To this end we have developed a general framework, consisting of three steps/objectives: (1) feature identification, (2) model generation and statistical validation, and (3) application and validation of the predictive models in the clinical scenario. We used muscle dysfunction and co-morbidity as test cases for this framework.
In the study of muscle wasting we identified relevant features (genes) by a network analysis and generated predictive models that integrate mechanistic and probabilistic models. This allowed us to characterize muscle wasting as a general de-regulation of pathway interactions. In the co-morbidity analysis we identified relevant features (genes/pathways) by the integration of gene-disease and disease-disease associations. We further present a detailed characterization of co-morbidities in COPD patients that was implemented into a predictive model. In both use cases we were able to achieve predictive modeling but we also identified several key challenges, the most pressing being the validation and implementation into actual clinical practice.
The results confirm the potential of the Systems Medicine approach to study complex diseases and generate clinically relevant predictive models. Our study also highlights important obstacles and bottlenecks for such approaches (e.g. data availability and normalization of frameworks among others) and suggests specific proposals to overcome them.
PMCID: PMC4255907  PMID: 25471042
Chronic diseases; COPD; Disease heterogeneity; Systems Medicine; Predictive Modeling; Co-morbidity
2.  Dynamic probabilistic threshold networks to infer signaling pathways from time-course perturbation data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(1):250.
Network inference deals with the reconstruction of molecular networks from experimental data. Given N molecular species, the challenge is to find the underlying network. Due to data limitations, this typically is an ill-posed problem, and requires the integration of prior biological knowledge or strong regularization. We here focus on the situation when time-resolved measurements of a system’s response after systematic perturbations are available.
We present a novel method to infer signaling networks from time-course perturbation data. We utilize dynamic Bayesian networks with probabilistic Boolean threshold functions to describe protein activation. The model posterior distribution is analyzed using evolutionary MCMC sampling and subsequent clustering, resulting in probability distributions over alternative networks. We evaluate our method on simulated data, and study its performance with respect to data set size and levels of noise. We then use our method to study EGF-mediated signaling in the ERBB pathway.
Dynamic Probabilistic Threshold Networks is a new method to infer signaling networks from time-series perturbation data. It exploits the dynamic response of a system after external perturbation for network reconstruction. On simulated data, we show that the approach outperforms current state of the art methods. On the ERBB data, our approach recovers a significant fraction of the known interactions, and predicts novel mechanisms in the ERBB pathway.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2105-15-250) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4133630  PMID: 25047753
3.  High-throughput RNA interference screens integrative analysis: Towards a comprehensive understanding of the virus-host interplay 
World Journal of Virology  2013;2(2):18-31.
Viruses are extremely heterogeneous entities; the size and the nature of their genetic information, as well as the strategies employed to amplify and propagate their genomes, are highly variable. However, as obligatory intracellular parasites, replication of all viruses relies on the host cell. Having co-evolved with their host for several million years, viruses have developed very sophisticated strategies to hijack cellular factors that promote virus uptake, replication, and spread. Identification of host cell factors (HCFs) required for these processes is a major challenge for researchers, but it enables the identification of new, highly selective targets for anti viral therapeutics. To this end, the establishment of platforms enabling genome-wide high-throughput RNA interference (HT-RNAi) screens has led to the identification of several key factors involved in the viral life cycle. A number of genome-wide HT-RNAi screens have been performed for major human pathogens. These studies enable first inter-viral comparisons related to HCF requirements. Although several cellular functions appear to be uniformly required for the life cycle of most viruses tested (such as the proteasome and the Golgi-mediated secretory pathways), some factors, like the lipid kinase Phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase IIIα in the case of hepatitis C virus, are selectively required for individual viruses. However, despite the amount of data available, we are still far away from a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between viruses and host factors. Major limitations towards this goal are the low sensitivity and specificity of such screens, resulting in limited overlap between different screens performed with the same virus. This review focuses on how statistical and bioinformatic analysis methods applied to HT-RNAi screens can help overcoming these issues thus increasing the reliability and impact of such studies.
PMCID: PMC3785050  PMID: 24175227
RNA interference; High-throughput; Cell population; Dependency factors; Bioinformatics; Human immunodeficiency virus; Hepatitis C virus; Dengue virus; Viral infection; Virus-host interactions
4.  Normalizing for individual cell population context in the analysis of high-content cellular screens 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:485.
High-content, high-throughput RNA interference (RNAi) offers unprecedented possibilities to elucidate gene function and involvement in biological processes. Microscopy based screening allows phenotypic observations at the level of individual cells. It was recently shown that a cell's population context significantly influences results. However, standard analysis methods for cellular screens do not currently take individual cell data into account unless this is important for the phenotype of interest, i.e. when studying cell morphology.
We present a method that normalizes and statistically scores microscopy based RNAi screens, exploiting individual cell information of hundreds of cells per knockdown. Each cell's individual population context is employed in normalization. We present results on two infection screens for hepatitis C and dengue virus, both showing considerable effects on observed phenotypes due to population context. In addition, we show on a non-virus screen that these effects can be found also in RNAi data in the absence of any virus. Using our approach to normalize against these effects we achieve improved performance in comparison to an analysis without this normalization and hit scoring strategy. Furthermore, our approach results in the identification of considerably more significantly enriched pathways in hepatitis C virus replication than using a standard analysis approach.
Using a cell-based analysis and normalization for population context, we achieve improved sensitivity and specificity not only on a individual protein level, but especially also on a pathway level. This leads to the identification of new host dependency factors of the hepatitis C and dengue viruses and higher reproducibility of results.
PMCID: PMC3259109  PMID: 22185194

Results 1-4 (4)