The establishment of a centralised facility for the provision of high-quality, standardised heat shock protein reagents, the reinforcement of the leading position of European scientists in the field and to open possibilities for development of new diagnostic and therapeutic measures. Once this CA facility becomes fully operative, it will be developed into a centralised facility, and make services/reagents available to scientists active in other European life science programmes.
Chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, are major contributors to the morbidity of European populations, justifying a European approach for studying these diseases of which several cause a considerable amount of suffering and high health costs for the societies.
Studies carried out in a variety of distinct autoimmune (rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, scleroderma, Behcet, juvenile chronic arthritis, Crohn's disease, billiary cirrhosis) and autoimmune-like (such as atherosclerosis, gastritis, transplant rejection etc.) diseases have shown that the occurence of disease coincided with the presence of immunity (both cellular [T cells] and antibody [B cells] mediated) directed against heat-shock proteins (hsp's, e.g. hsp60, 70's, 90). Thus it has been shown that immune responses to hsp's may be central to many of the chronic inflammatory diseases.
In order to further understand pathogenic mechanisms and to enable development of future novel diagnostic and/or therapeutic possibilities, a concerted inventarisation of immunity to hsp's in chronic diseases seems now required. Many of the studies carried out so far have suffered from the lack of access to well defined high quality standardised hsp reagents. This has hindered consistent data exchange and evaluation
The supply of standard reagents will make it possible to explore the scientific questions regarding the immune responses to hsp's without inconsistencies due to the use of variable reagents, and thus will streamline and speed-up this research and thus treatment regimens.
The participating European laboratories have performed pioneering work in this area and the establishment of a Biomed 2 funded programme will reinforce this position. A continued study of immune responses to hsp's in chronic inflammatory diseases, is very likely to produce significant advances in the understanding of pathogenicity, diagnostics and treatment of these diseases. This will only be possible by using defined reagents and with the ready exchange of materials of identical purity and research data between participating groups in Europe through a concerted approach where several centers add their experience and knowhow.
Chronic diseases; inflammation; heat shock proteins; autoimmunity; arthritis; diabetes; atherosclerosis; Behcet.