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Inflammatory Bowel Disease: an EU-NZ integrated approach for characterizing its molecular multifactorial mechanisms

Final Report Summary - REINFORCE (Inflammatory Bowel Disease: an EU-NZ integrated approach for characterizing its molecular multifactorial mechanisms)

The term “inflammatory bowel disease” (IBD) refers primarily to two major disorders such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). Both diseases are chronic conditions characterized by recurrent inflammatory lesions involving the gut mucosa. Etiology of IBD is still unknown, however several studies demonstrated that multifactorial mechanisms, including immunoregulatory defects, genetic mutations, dysbiosis of commensal enteric microbiota, alterations in mucosal permeability and alimentary factors, can contribute to pathogenesis of IBD.

The complexity of all these factors makes necessary for a researcher to acquire the widest spectrum of methodologies in order to disentangle the pathogenesis of IBD and develop potentially useful therapeutic strategies.

The project has been structured to ensure the achievement of several objectives. As an overall outcome, REINFORCE has provided added-value training and research foreground in addition to clinical feasible applications for the improvement of the European and New Zealand scientists. These results were obtained by generating new knowledge derived from the adoption of innovative approaches in the IBD-related research in a network-based approach.

A total of 23 EU and NZ ESRs and ERs had the opportunity to be involved in the REINFORCE exchanges, improving their molecular and cellular knowledge, thus increasing their comprehension of the complexity of the “IBD system” and promoting inter-linkage and cross-fertilization among different disciplines characterizing this disorder.
In particular, the main research topics concerned: (i) characterization of the gut microbiota in IBD subjects, by using the most advanced Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques and bioinformatics pipelines for obtaining a detailed profiling of the composition and function of this complex microbial ecosystem; (ii) identification of “Next Generation” probiotics to be used in the treatment of IBD; (iii) study of metabolic profiles of these beneficial bacteria in order to identify relevant protective cross-talks with the IBD patients; (iv) characterization of the innate immunity and urine metabolomics profiles of IBD patients in order to identify new biomarkers.
The improvements in the IBD knowledge derived from REINFORCE research, has contributed to a deeper understanding of IBD useful to develop novel and standardized protocols and best practices to be consulted by IBD specialists.

The increase in qualification of the researchers, derived from the integrated and multidisciplinary know-how acquired during REINFORCE, represent an important added value in dealing with IBD in the partner countries, where these intestinal disorders are increasingly affecting the population.