Based on the prevalence of chronic inflammatory diseases worldwide, an affiliation of nine European countries, including academic and industry partners, has been awarded 14.4 million euros (around $15.3 million U.S.) to develop medical approaches for the prediction and treatment of inflammatory diseases.
Focus will be placed on three major inflammatory diseases with distinct characteristics that exhibit similar genetic patterns: rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
The project, “A systems medicine approach to chronic inflammatory disease” (SYSCID), was announced by the European Commission in a recent news release.
Many genetic and non-genetic factors play a role in chronic inflammatory diseases, and a personalized therapeutic approach could help deliver more timely and effective therapies for individuals.
The team’s goals include the identification of both shared and unique characteristics, or “core disease signatures,” and building predictive models for disease outcomes. In this way, researchers hope to identify biomarkers which can guide therapeutic decisions on an individual basis.
They also aim is to alter or reprogram the diseases genetically. For this purpose, the identification of genes that are stable and/or mutated in diseased states can further the potential development of gene therapies.
“Our vision is to develop a prediction framework for disease outcome and choice of treatment strategies. With many new targeted therapies coming to the market, we need the right therapy at the right time,” Dr. Philip Rosenstiel, from the Institute of Clinical Molecular Biology at Kiel University and scientific coordinator of the SYSCID consortium, said in a news release.
“Our approach combines several biomarker layers from the epigenome to the microbiome, but also aims to investigate more sophisticated tools, such as single cell analysis,” he said.
The epigenome refers to the chemical changes introduced in DNA molecules. These changes can lead to differences in structure and gene activity, and can be the result of environmental conditions. The epigenome is involved in several cellular processes, including the regulation of gene expression.
“Assuming that the development and course of a disease are related to long-term epigenetic alterations, it makes sense to target the very root of the disease,” Rosenstiel said.
The team believes that such novel epigenetic markers could be more significant than the inflammation markers in the blood that are currently used.