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J Biomed Semantics. 2018 Dec 27;9(1):25. doi: 10.1186/s13326-018-0192-y.

Investigating the role of interleukin-1 beta and glutamate in inflammatory bowel disease and epilepsy using discovery browsing.

Author information

Retired, Washington, DC, USA.
School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 501 E Daniel Street, Champaign, 61820, IL, USA.
Kaiser Permanente Southern California, 11975 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA, 92103, USA.
Independent researcher, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Department of Comparative Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.
Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD, USA.



Structured electronic health records are a rich resource for identifying novel correlations, such as co-morbidities and adverse drug reactions. For drug development and better understanding of biomedical phenomena, such correlations need to be supported by viable hypotheses about the mechanisms involved, which can then form the basis of experimental investigations.


In this study, we demonstrate the use of discovery browsing, a literature-based discovery method, to generate plausible hypotheses elucidating correlations identified from structured clinical data. The method is supported by Semantic MEDLINE web application, which pinpoints interesting concepts and relevant MEDLINE citations, which are used to build a coherent hypothesis.


Discovery browsing revealed a plausible explanation for the correlation between epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease that was found in an earlier population study. The generated hypothesis involves interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta) and glutamate, and suggests that IL-1 beta influence on glutamate levels is involved in the etiology of both epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease.


The approach presented in this paper can supplement population-based correlation studies by enabling the scientist to identify literature that may justify the novel patterns identified in such studies and can underpin basic biomedical research that can lead to improved treatments and better healthcare outcomes.


Discovery browsing; Epilepsy; Glutamate; Inflammatory bowel disease; Interleukin-1 beta; Literature-based discovery

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