A diseasome cluster-based drug repurposing of soluble guanylate cyclase activators from smooth muscle relaxation to direct neuroprotection

Friederike Langhauser, Ana I Casas*, Vu-Thao-Vi Dao, Emre Guney, Jörg Menche, Eva Geuss, Pamela W M Kleikers, Manuela G López, Albert-L Barabási, Christoph Kleinschnitz, Harald H H W Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

36 Citations (Web of Science)


Network medicine utilizes common genetic origins, markers and co-morbidities to uncover mechanistic links between diseases. These links can be summarized in the diseasome, a comprehensive network of disease-disease relationships and clusters. The diseasome has been influential during the past decade, although most of its links are not followed up experimentally. Here, we investigate a high prevalence unmet medical need cluster of disease phenotypes linked to cyclic GMP. Hitherto, the central cGMP-forming enzyme, soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC), has been targeted pharmacologically exclusively for smooth muscle modulation in cardiology and pulmonology. Here, we examine the disease associations of sGC in a non-hypothesis based manner in order to identify possibly previously unrecognized clinical indications. Surprisingly, we find that sGC, is closest linked to neurological disorders, an application that has so far not been explored clinically. Indeed, when investigating the neurological indication of this cluster with the highest unmet medical need, ischemic stroke, pre-clinically we find that sGC activity is virtually absent post-stroke. Conversely, a heme-free form of sGC, apo-sGC, was now the predominant isoform suggesting it may be a mechanism-based target in stroke. Indeed, this repurposing hypothesis could be validated experimentally in vivo as specific activators of apo-sGC were directly neuroprotective, reduced infarct size and increased survival. Thus, common mechanism clusters of the diseasome allow direct drug repurposing across previously unrelated disease phenotypes redefining them in a mechanism-based manner. Specifically, our example of repurposing apo-sGC activators for ischemic stroke should be urgently validated clinically as a possible first-in-class neuroprotective therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages13
JournalNPJ systems biology and applications
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2018


  • CGMP

Cite this