Research center: Tracking common diseases

A new medical research center in Leipzig wants to examine so-called common diseases more closely. The aim is to examine the most common diseases so that they can be recognized more quickly and treated better. The new center also focuses on effective prevention.

Dementia, diabetes, depression, obesity (obesity), cardiovascular diseases and countless allergies: the so-called civilization diseases are increasing rapidly in the modern industrialized countries. Therefore, the LIFE Research Center for Civilization Diseases at the University of Leipzig, which is funded by the Free State of Saxony with 38 million euros, is now dedicated to the research and investigation of the most common diseases. Because socially related diseases are increasingly becoming a problem in health care. The costs in the health system are increasing rapidly due to the increase in so-called common diseases. It is therefore extremely important to examine the causes, origins and possibilities of preventive care in more detail.

25,000 test subjects will be examined The approximately 100 scientists of the interdisciplinary research network LIFE (Leipzig Interdisciplinary Research Complex on Molecular Causes of Environmentally and Lifestyle-Related Diseases) want to intensively investigate the living conditions, lifestyle and genetic disposition of approx. 25,000 healthy and sick people by 2013 in order to investigate common diseases like getting to the bottom of obesity or diabetes. It has long been known that stress, unhealthy diet and a lack of exercise promote the outbreak of most diseases of civilization. However, the Leipzig researchers expect far more complex relationships that will result from the examination of lifestyle, environmental conditions, metabolism and the genetic disposition of 25,000 test subjects.

Research focuses on widespread diseases such as diabetes, depression and dementia "The research focuses on the reasons why some people stay healthy and get very old for a long time, despite considerable risk factors, and others suffer from vascular diseases at a young age," said LIFE board member Joachim Thiery. The focus of the research is on diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and dementia, but also tumors, allergies, cardiovascular diseases or heart attacks and strokes are to be examined more closely within the scope of the study. In cooperation with the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association and a research-based pharmaceutical company, the scientists at the University of Leipzig want to provide an explanation for the massive increase in diseases of civilization. "Hopefully we will receive groundbreaking and new insights for prevention and targeted therapy for at least one or two of the major common diseases," emphasizes Joachim Thiery. The specialist expects the first research results in two to three years. The scientists are currently still looking for around 10,000 volunteers from the Leipzig area between the ages of 40 and 79 to compare their data with those of the "health comparison group" from patients at the university hospital. The newly obtained results should in future form the basis for better prevention, early detection and treatment of diseases of civilization.

Environmental and living conditions as the cause of widespread diseases By analyzing the complex interaction of environmental and living conditions, lifestyle, metabolism and genetic predisposition, the LIFE project scientists hope to find answers to questions such as: "Why do certain diseases occur in certain regions and certain age groups? ”Since part of the blood and cell samples are to be stored in a“ biobank ”, research can still be carried out with the current samples in 20 years, explained Joachim Thiery. In addition, around 5000 children and adolescents would be examined in parallel for causes of diseases such as obesity and diabetes mellitus as well as allergies and mental illnesses, the data of which are also stored. The scientists hope that the research results will contribute in the long term to more effective prevention, early detection and treatment of environmental and lifestyle-related diseases.

Around 100 jobs will be created. The initiators hope that the project will not only provide scientific benefits. They also assume that the new research network has great potential for knowledge-based company spin-offs. The development of special processes and products that will later be ready for the market could create around 100 highly qualified jobs in the region in the medium term. (fp, 28.09.2010)

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