Dr. Data

Pediatrician Atul Butte:

Computing New Understandings of Disease

Butte Computes Disease

Pediatrician Butte studies genes to find new uses for existing medicines



Can different diseases have similarities?

Photo: Steve Gladfelter

Answer: Yes

Diseases with different symptoms can have similarities

A Genomic Surprise

Butte's discovery: Heart attack and muscular dystrophy alter the activity of the same group of genes.

Old Models of Classification

Traditional Model of Medical Research

One/few genes

One/few proteins

One biological


One disease

Study what happens to


1. Understanding about how one disease affects the activity of one biological process

Butte's Approach


  1. Understanding about the activity of genes across diseases

  2. Connections between different diseases at the genetic level

  3. Possibility of using existing medicines for one disease to treat another disease

Measure activity of all genes in

the human genome

Find gene activity overlap to

Many diseases

Research Tools: Microarrays


The Power of GEO

Genome Expression Omnibus

Photo: Melissa Li

Advances in Disease Research

How are these useful to scientists studying disease?

What challenges does this create?

How is this different from current disease classification systems?

Research Applications

What are some implications of using existing medications to treat diseases other than those they initially were developed to treat?