Biomedical database inter-connectivity: an experiment linking MIM, GENBANK, and META-1 via MEDLINE.
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The linkage of disparate biomedical databases is an important goal of the Unified Medical Language (UMLS) Project. We conducted an experiment to investigate the feasibility of using UMLS resources to link databases in clinical genetics and molecular biology. References from MIM ("Mendelian Inheritance in Man") were lexically mapped to the equivalent citations in MEDLINE. The MeSH major subject headings by which the citations in a particular MIM entry had been indexed were used to develop a "genetic-disorder-centered view of the world" in Meta-1 (the first official version of the UMLS Metathesaurus). Our hypothesis was that these MeSH subject headings could provide access to a "semantic neighborhood" in Meta-1 that would be relevant to a particular genetic disorder. By browsing in this "semantic neighborhood," a user could select various combinations of terms with which to search MEDLINE through an interface between Meta-1 and Grateful Med. Such searches might retrieve citations that were more recent than those in MIM or that provided useful supplementary information. Since some MEDLINE records contain pointers to entries in GENBANK, information about genetic sequences related to a particular clinical genetic disorder could also be retrieved. This scenario was implemented for a small number of MIM entries, providing a concrete demonstration that linking disparate electronic databases in an important subdomain of biomedicine is relatively straightforward.