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Open Access Commentary

Integrating findings of traditional medicine with modern pharmaceutical research: the potential role of linked open data

Matthias Samwald12*, Michel Dumontier3, Jun Zhao4, Joanne S Luciano5, Michael Scott Marshall6 and Kei Cheung7

Author Affiliations

1 Digital Enterprise Research Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, IDA Business Park, Lower Dangan, Galway, Ireland

2 Information Retrieval Facility, Donau City Straße 1, 1220 Vienna, Austria

3 Department of Biology, Institute of Biochemistry, School of Computer Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada

4 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, The Tinbergen Building, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

5 Tetherless World Constellation, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Winslow Building, Room 2143, 110 8th Street, Troy, NY 12180, USA

6 Informatics Institute, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

7 Center for Medical Informatics, Yale University School of Medicine, 300 George Street, New Haven, CT 06511, USA

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Chinese Medicine 2010, 5:43  doi:10.1186/1749-8546-5-43

Published: 17 December 2010

Abstract

One of the biggest obstacles to progress in modern pharmaceutical research is the difficulty of integrating all available research findings into effective therapies for humans. Studies of traditionally used pharmacologically active plants and other substances in traditional medicines may be valuable sources of previously unknown compounds with therapeutic actions. However, the integration of findings from traditional medicines can be fraught with difficulties and misunderstandings. This article proposes an approach to use linked open data and Semantic Web technologies to address the heterogeneous data integration problem. The approach is based on our initial experiences with implementing an integrated web of data for a selected use-case, i.e., the identification of plant species used in Chinese medicine that indicate potential antidepressant activities.