Brussels, 17 Jun 2004
Chronic inflammation, which includes diseases such as asthma, arthritis, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, affects millions of people worldwide. To tackle the condition, the European Commission is therefore providing ten million euro over four years to a new Network of Excellence, the Cell Migration and Inflammation (MAIN) project, the aim of which is to identify and characterise the molecular mechanisms underlying chronic inflammatory responses.
The network, which will be coordinated by Professor Ruggero Pardi from the San Raffaele Scientific Institute, will gather 150 researchers and graduate students from five EU countries as well as Switzerland and Israel.
Furthermore, MAIN will work closely with the US cell migration consortium (CMS), 'whose goal is to explore the complex mechanisms underlying cell migration in embryonic development, wound healing and cancer. MAIN and CMC will share information and technology platforms and will develop a coordinated agenda of scientific events in order to communicate their scientific achievements to a wider scientific audience as well as to the general public,' explains professor Pardi.
Common to all chronic inflammation diseases, is that the inflammatory response, originally aimed at recognising and eliminating foreign 'pathogens' or damaging agents, overreacts to them and causes tissue damage that can be harmful to the individual. Scientists therefore face the challenge of trying to limit such overreaction without, however, compromising the efficiency of the inflammatory response.
At present, therapeutic tools, in particular anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, tend to decrease the patient's natural defence mechanisms and produce a host of undesirable side effects.
The difficulty with chronic inflammation responses is that they involve a vast display of unrelated, complex biological processes triggered by multiple injurious stimuli. It is therefore essential to bring together scientists from diverse backgrounds and with different skills to obtain a complete molecular dissection of each process.
'We believe that the most effective strategy to overcome barriers to progress in chronic inflammation is to promote the synergistic interaction of scientists from many disciplines to challenge the aforementioned processes using a reductionist approach,' explains the MAIN consortium in a statement.
'In the era of systems biology, is seems ill advised to start this large effort by investigating many unrelated, albeit individually relevant problems underlying chronic inflammatory responses. By focusing on one such process, rather than on several mechanistically unrelated ones, we hope to attain the highest degree of integration among the participating scientists, thereby maximising the chances to strengthen scientific and technological excellence at the European level,' ends the statement.
MAIN will achieve its scientific goals by developing four developmental research programmes (tool development; target identification; target validation and drug development), three support facilities (imaging, proteomics and microrrays) and one core facility (bioinformatics), each coordinated by two researchers.
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