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This article is part of the supplement: Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences (SWAT4LS) 2010

Open Access Research

Exploring and linking biomedical resources through multidimensional semantic spaces

Rafael Berlanga1*, Ernesto Jiménez-Ruiz2 and Victoria Nebot1

Author affiliations

1 Departamento de Lenguajes y Sistemas Informáticos, Universitat Jaume I, Campus Riu Sec s/n, E-12071 Castellón, Spain

2 Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford, Wolfson Building, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QD, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13(Suppl 1):S6  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S1-S6

Published: 25 January 2012



The semantic integration of biomedical resources is still a challenging issue which is required for effective information processing and data analysis. The availability of comprehensive knowledge resources such as biomedical ontologies and integrated thesauri greatly facilitates this integration effort by means of semantic annotation, which allows disparate data formats and contents to be expressed under a common semantic space. In this paper, we propose a multidimensional representation for such a semantic space, where dimensions regard the different perspectives in biomedical research (e.g., population, disease, anatomy and protein/genes).


This paper presents a novel method for building multidimensional semantic spaces from semantically annotated biomedical data collections. This method consists of two main processes: knowledge and data normalization. The former one arranges the concepts provided by a reference knowledge resource (e.g., biomedical ontologies and thesauri) into a set of hierarchical dimensions for analysis purposes. The latter one reduces the annotation set associated to each collection item into a set of points of the multidimensional space. Additionally, we have developed a visual tool, called 3D-Browser, which implements OLAP-like operators over the generated multidimensional space. The method and the tool have been tested and evaluated in the context of the Health-e-Child (HeC) project. Automatic semantic annotation was applied to tag three collections of abstracts taken from PubMed, one for each target disease of the project, the Uniprot database, and the HeC patient record database. We adopted the UMLS Meta-thesaurus 2010AA as the reference knowledge resource.


Current knowledge resources and semantic-aware technology make possible the integration of biomedical resources. Such an integration is performed through semantic annotation of the intended biomedical data resources. This paper shows how these annotations can be exploited for integration, exploration, and analysis tasks. Results over a real scenario demonstrate the viability and usefulness of the approach, as well as the quality of the generated multidimensional semantic spaces.