SCIENTISTS at a city university have developed computer technology which will help in the battle against heart disease.

Scientists at the University of Strathclyde say their revolutionary technology opens up the discovery of smarter drugs to treat major illnesses.

The Shapeshifting Inspired Discovery (SID) program decodes the structures of proteins in our cells that scientists suspect may hold the key to new treatments.

The program can rapidly analyse the complicated shapes and identify how the proteins might be "shapeshifted" by drugs.

Shapeshifting involves a more subtle mechanism than conventional drugs, which stop the proteins working completely.

The team behind SID - developed entirely at Strathclyde over the last decade, and now being deployed exclusively in collaboration with US firm Serometrix - will apply it to drug discovery for a range of diseases and conditions.

Dr Mark Dufton, of Strathclyde's Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, said: "Conventional drug discovery is extremely expensive, time consuming and often heavily reliant on 'lottery techniques' to identify useful drugs by chance.

"While this has certainly reaped benefits before, these traditional methods are becoming less fruitful and many new drug candidates found in this way are being abandoned because of toxicity problems and side effects.

"Drugs that act by shape-shifting work in a much smarter way that is a closer mimic of natural mechanisms for control.

"The ability of SID to predict the scope for 'shape-shifting' enables us to probe large, complex biological molecules - which have evolved their intricate shapes over hundreds of millions of years - so that we can analyse where and whether they can be targeted to provide treatments.

"When targeting is more selective, and the mechanism is smarter, a new generation of better medicines beckons."

Dr John Wilson, of Strath-clyde's Department of Computer and Information Sciences, said: "We have been able to understand how to optimise the SID algorithm such that it now provides a near real-time, three-dimensional, graphical output that makes it extremely easy for clients to quickly understand where to focus their efforts."

The University of Strath-clyde is recognised for strong research links with business and industry.