Sidra Medicine Research Establishes Animal Behavior Pipeline for Precision Medicine


QF entity research published in Current Biology aims to understand impact of odor-guided behavior on human diseases

A team of researchers at Sidra Medicine have established an animal behavior pipeline to better understand the impact of odor-guided behavior on human diseases like Autism, Anorexia and other appetite related disorders. The pipeline is part of Sidra Medicine’s precision medicine program.

The research combined animal behavior quantification with artificial intelligence to generate the most comprehensive study of mouse olfactory behavior, and study how these animal odor-guided behaviors relate to human smell perception.

Dr. Luis R. Saraiva, Principal Investigator (Associate Level), from the Human Genetics Department at Sidra Medicine said: “Our aim was to develop a high-throughput behavioral quantification platform to better understand how animals respond to environmental odors. This would then open the pathway to see whether the molecular properties of these odorants can be used to predict animal behavior as measuring animal behavior is often used in pre-clinical animal models.”

“In addition, despite its important role in modelling human disease, big data analytical approaches to analyze behavior have rarely been extended to pre-clinical animal models. We believe this methodology developed at Sidra Medicine, would help us to better understand how genetic mutations in humans can affect the entire organism and lead to diseases, such as autism or appetite-related disorders,” continued Dr. Saraiva.

In collaboration with other US based researchers from Arizona State University and Monell Chemical Senses Center, the researchers at Sidra Medicine, compared mouse olfactory behaviors to human smell perception scores, and found that both species share three fundamental properties. This included factors such as odor valence (i.e., attraction vs. repulsion) as the most important aspect of smell perception; that molecular properties of odor molecules can be used to predict both mouse and human smell perception; and that odor concentration can have a big impact on odor-guided behaviors. The findings were recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Current Biology in May 2021. 

Dr. Diogo Manoel, Staff Scientist from the Genetic Department at Sidra Medicine who was the first author of the study, said: “Using a combination of analytical methods including multivariate statistics and machine learning, we were able to dig deeper into the behavioral data. These analyses uncovered the most relevant features of the dataset, shedding light on the predictability of animal behavior based on the physicochemical properties of the molecular stimulus. We also intend to include these tools as one of the phenotyping approaches of the functional genomics unit here, as an integrating part of our precision medicine endeavor,” continued Dr. Manoel. 

Dr. Saraiva, who was also the lead author of the study continued: “Our study generated the most comprehensive atlas of mouse olfactory behaviors to date, and provides unique and novel insights into how mouse olfactory behaviors relate to human smell perception. The experimental approach we developed for this study combines measuring animal behavior with the predictive power of artificial intelligence. The results from our research greatly improve our basic understanding of animal and human smell perception, but also serve as a proof of concept for future behavioral studies using pre-clinical animal models of human disease at Sidra Medicine. Our goal here is to exploit artificial intelligence to cut short the time needed for the repurposing of medical drugs for the treatment of neurological diseases – including autism, intellectual disability, and ataxia.”