Medical Sciences Paper on Virtual Reality in Drug Discovery

The continued advances in computer and graphics display technology have enabled medical scientists, including Biochemists and Pharmacologists, to create a virtual world aimed at enhancing research and the treatment of deceases. The innovation has made it possible for the medical fraternity to learn and understand detailed structures of the anatomy by providing 3-dimension high-quality virtual images that immensely improve and develop drug designs (Norrby et al. 2475) in a world where a wide range of diseases are exhibiting resistance to the available drugs designed to treat them.  Evidently, the platform has exhibited better results in drug discovery due to its incorporation of high-quality graphics images compared to other technics used in drug discovery.

Virtual reality has played a pivotal role in drug discovery. Today, medical scientists enjoy the ability to visualize complex molecules and simulate them to their desired structure as they discover and even design new drugs for various illnesses such as cancer, respiratory conditions, and even neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia. Indeed, exists a new possibility with the technology.


The  Drug Discovery Process

Virtual Reality in Discovery Drugs Using Molecules

Today, 3D virtual images of small molecules, for instance, dopamine and large molecules such as DNA double helix structure and various proteins have made efficacious contributions in the field of drug discovery (Norrby et al. 2475). One such finding has been the use of protein structures in drug discovery. Until the 1990s, structural biologists had been unable to develop drugs using protein structures. However, eventually, these specialists overcame the issue with the introduction of innovations such as Virtual Reality in the pharmacology industry. The designing of drugs using protein structure has become critical in drug discovery since it has provided biochemists, pharmacologist and academic researchers with endless possibilities in drug discovery. Through the platform, biochemist can easily manipulate molecules by twisting, knotting, or even folding them and gauging their reactions in different these situations (O’Connor et al. 3). For example, the study of proteins has been enhanced using this technology as they are quite reactive depending on how they are folded. Virtual Reality technology has, therefore, enabled these researchers to identify new drug leads, which are essential in developing potent drugs with fewer side effects to the human body. Another major advantages of using this platform in drug discovery is the fact that several researchers can interact and study a set of molecules simultaneously.

Through structure-based virtual screening, researchers can identify bioactive molecules that interact with a protein the result of which is then tested in a laboratory.  One such protein is the Adenosine Triphosphate (ABC) binding cassette (ABC) protein superfamily, which is mostly efflux transporters whose mutation have been discovered to prevent multidrug resistance (Molinski et al. 5). Though the help of virtual visualization, drug discovery researchers have been able to fully understand and appreciate the important role played by the (ABC) protein superfamily and the subsequent disease emergence, such as cancer relapse or progression, in the human body if they mutate. Most of the ABC proteins that are currently reported in the Protein Data Bank are not from human beings (Subramaniam et al. 194).  Consequently, through molecular visualization drug developers’ act with a clear insight of these proteins, which are considered hard to study in effective cancer drug design.


Taking Drug Discovery to the Next Level

In essence, the virtual reality technology has greatly enhanced molecular visualization compared to the traditional ones. These outdated methods have a wide range of drawbacks, such as producing images whose original color is distorted thus limiting their analysis. On the other hand, high-quality 3D images produced by the platform immerse researchers in a virtual world, which affords certainty in the field of drug discovery and design.

Virtual Reality in Cell Biology and Drug Discovery      

The role of cellular biology in drug development has often been underappreciated (Sorger & Schoeberl 1462). The exploration of the cellular architecture has been of profound importance in the medical field more so in pharmacology and drug discovery. Scientists have developed a variety of Virtual Reality applications aimed at helping medical researchers understand the complex field of cell architecture. This software has made it possible for researchers to develop 3D cellular images that have made it easier for them to become immensely knowledgeable in this field as well as the molecule and protein distribution in people. The enhanced understanding of the molecular and cellular biology has continually advanced researchers’ understanding of diseases and their diagnosis and has had a great impact, particularly in the discovery and use of drugs. With the help of the Virtual Reality software, biologists have had a greater opportunity to study and understand how different cells and tissues react to diverse targeted drugs and in determining issues such as drug resistance in some patients. The enhanced understanding has enabled Biochemist and Pharmacologists to develop more effective new and standard-of-care drugs for various illnesses.

The World of Endless Possibilities


Examples of Drugs Discovery Enhanced By Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has enabled the pharmaceutical industry among other medical fields to make huge strides in drug discovery for various illnesses. One of the major positive strides that have been made has been in the treatment of cancer. Through the platform, medical scientists have gotten important insight in various ABC proteins, which are responsible for various multidrug resistance protein, such as P-glycoprotein (P-gp/ABCB1) and (BCRP/ABCG2), which is breast cancer resistant (Molinski et al. 5). Because of the platform’s ability to visualize such small molecules, scientists are now better knowledgeable on the effects that patients experience, including inhibition to enough killing of cancer cells in the event these proteins are over suppressed. Using the knowledge of these structurally complex and underrepresented proteins as facilitated by the technology, apt medicinal chemistry procedures, such as chemotherapy, are advanced to cope with the challenge they pose.

Limitations of Virtual Reality in Drug Discovery

As much as the Virtual Reality software in drug discovery has a wide range of benefits it also has limitations. One of the major limitations of the innovation is that it provides a wide field view of visualization of its target, including cellular and molecular structures. As such, this large data can potentially slow a researcher’s visual updates and result to side effects such as nausea.


Virtual Reality technology research has spread in the medical field of drug discovery. It has enabled researchers to easily study and visualize molecular and cellular interactions and diversity in the human body. The technology has informed various experiments aimed at essentially helping biochemists, pharmacologist, and other medical experts develop the most potent yet best drugs for various diseases. It is bound to evolve even further, which would enhance drug discovery and thus make medical experts more equipped to address medical issues.


Works Cited

Molinski, V. Steven, Bozoky, Zoltan, Iram, H. Surtaj & Ahmadi, Samuel. “Biophysical Approaches Facilitate Computational Drug Discovery for ATP- Binding Cassette Proteins.” International Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 2017 (2017):1-9.

Norrby, Magnus., Grebner, Christoph., Erriksson, Joakim., & Bostrom, Jonas. “Molecular Rift: Virtual Reality for Drug Designers.” Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling 55 (2015): 2475-2484.

O’Connor, Michael et al. “Sampling molecular conformations and dynamics in a multiuser virtual reality framework.” Science Advances 4.6 (2018):1-10

Sorger, K. Peter & Schoeberl Brigit. “An expanding role for cell biologists in drug discovery and pharmacology.” Molecular Biology of the Cell 23.21 (2012): 4162-4164.

Subramaniam, S., Earl, L.A., Falconieri, V., Milne, J.L & Egelman, E.H. “Resolution advances in cryo-EM enable application to drug discovery.” Current Opinion in Structural Biology 41 (2016): 194-202.