Could Google's PageRank algorithm lead to medical breakthroughs?

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google-labs(1).gifGoogle’s PageRank algorithm revolutionised the way we search for content on the web. But could it now be used to aid medical advances?

That’s the theory from the team at Washington State University, who are using the algorithm to more accurately model water molecule behaviour.

Chemists Aurora Clark, Barbara Logan Mooney and L. Rene Corrales have published a paper called moleculaRnetworks in the Journal of Computational Chemistry, detailing their findings.

They have noted that Google’s PageRank system (which determines a website’s popularity and relevance based upon the number of links to it from other sites, and how influential those sites are) can be applied to water molecules, ranking them by the number and strength of hydrogen bonds to neighbouring molecules.

With water involved in nearly all biological reactions, a better understanding of the molecules could lead to safer, more effective drugs and treatments, as well as understanding the protein misfolding associated with some degenerative diseases.

It’s not the first time the PageRank algorithm has been applied to areas beyond the web. It has in the past also been used to analyse food chains, quantum networks and even the relevance and worth of scientific journals themselves.

Gerald Lynch

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