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Multi-national network of excellence for research on genetic predisposition to cardio-metabolic disorders due to UCP1 gene polymorphisms

Final Report Summary - U-GENE (Multi-national network of excellence for research on genetic predisposition to cardio-metabolic disorders due to UCP1 gene polymorphisms)

An alarmingly high incidence of obesity and cardio-metabolic disease has substantially contributed to Europe having one of the highest mortality rates for adults aged 15–59 in the world.
Cardio-metabolic disease (CMD) is not only associated with reduced life expectancy, but also drastically impacts health services, industry, education and government - with a multi-billion dollar cost to the economy. UCP1 is a mitochondrial transporter located in the inner mitochondrial membrane of BAT that enhances proton conductivity. This process uncouples adenosine triphosphate production from substrate oxidation resulting in the production of heat. Heat produced via BAT has been recently discussed as a countermeasure for the development of CMD. Indeed, most studies to date agree that the absence of BAT is related to CMD in humans. Currently, however, this phenomenon in humans is reported only as a correlation. In mice, the absence of UCP1 activity exacerbates the development of CMD. Thus, experts suggest that the age-associated decline in BAT levels may, at least in part, be responsible for a subset of human obesities. That said, the recent discovery of BAT in adult humans has sparked scientific interest worldwide. Scientists are working hard to develop BAT-based CMD therapies to increase and/or preserve BAT (or UCP1) for the purpose of burning off excess energy reserves. Increasing BAT (or UCP1) has significant implications for body weight management given that even small amounts of BAT can substantially influence metabolism.
The U-GENE project, funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, created a multiannual joint programme dedicated to exchanges of research staff between European (Greece, UK, Poland) research entities and other third countries (Russia, Armenia, Belarus) to investigate the prevalence of uncoupling protein one genetic polymorphisms and their impact on predisposition to CMD increase knowledge on adipose tissue plasticity and human thermogenesis. The U-GENE project was designed to exploit the complimentary expertise of EU and third country research organisations through knowledge sharing and transfer between countries. This was achieved by establishing a Network of Excellence that incorporated staff secondments for the purpose of networking, training activities, workshops, and joint research. The U-GENE partners boast an outstanding group of researchers, extensive collaboration and knowledge transfer networks, a large number of relevant publications, as well as very active participation in research programs funded by the European Commission. Moreover, the partners’ experience and specialisation in CMD research, their extensive experience in networks of excellence and international collaborations, and their broad infrastructures provided the level of quality required to transform the U-GENE joint exchange programme into a successful multi-national network of excellence for CMD research.
Our joint exchange programme significantly contributed to strengthen the cooperative potential for health-related RTD between EU/AC and EECA countries through staff exchanges and networking activities.
Through the exchanges, the researchers gained benefits such as new skills, personal development, career progress, exposure to a different organizational culture, opportunity to change direction, transfer of knowledge, and time for contemplation and re-evaluation of existing skills and abilities. In addition, the researchers had the chance to attend conferences through which they shared knowledge and information regarding the impact of genetics on cardiometabolic disease.