Literature-related discovery (LRD): Potential treatments for cataracts
Technological Forecasting and Social Change (2007)

Literature-related discovery (LRD) is the linking of two or more literature concepts that have heretofore not been linked (i.e., disjoint), in order to produce novel, interesting, plausible, and intelligible knowledge (i.e., potential discovery). The open discovery systems (ODS) component of LRD starts with a problem to be solved, and generates solutions to that problem through potential discovery. We have been using ODS LRD to identify potential treatments or preventative actions for challenging medical problems, among myriad other applications. This paper describes the second medical problem we addressed (cataract) using ODS LRD; the first problem addressed was Raynaud's Phenomenon (RP), and was described in the third paper of this Special Issue. Cataract was selected because it is ubiquitous globally, appears intractable to all forms of treatment other than surgical removal of cataracts, and is a major cause of blindness in many developing countries. The ODS LRD study had three objectives: a) identify non-drug non-surgical treatments that would 1) help prevent cataracts, or 2) reduce the progression rate of cataracts, or 3) stop the progression of cataracts, or 4) maybe even reverse the progression of cataracts; b) demonstrate that we could solve an ODS LRD problem with no prior knowledge of any results or prior work (unlike the case with the RP problem); c) determine whether large time savings in the discovery process were possible relative to the time required for conducting the RP study. To that end, we used the MeSH taxonomy of MEDLINE to restrict potential discoveries to selected semantic classes, as a substitute for the manually-intensive process used in the RP study to restrict potential discoveries to selected semantic classes. We also used additional semantic filtering to identify potential discovery within the selected semantic classes. All these goals were achieved. As will be shown, we generated large amounts of potential discovery in more than an order of magnitude less time than required for the RP study. We identified many non-drug non-surgical treatments that may be able to reduce or even stop the progression rate of cataracts. Time, and much testing, will determine whether this is possible. Finally, the methodology has been developed to the point where ODS LRD problems can be solved with no results or knowledge of any prior work.
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