Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - NOVOLUNG (Development of technologies to identify signalling pathways involved in lung disease processes)

Respiratory diseases place a significant burden on European societies in terms of quality of life and healthcare resources. The poor morbidity and mortality rates for most lung disease patients reflect failures to improve treatment strategies and to identify cures. Major respiratory disorders, such as pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis and lung cancer, rank among the 10 leading causes of death worldwide. Childhood respiratory illnesses are also a significant problem in Europe. Rates of childhood asthma have reached epidemic proportions in some urbanised areas, yet causes and cures are unknown. Human parainfluenza viral infection is a major cause of hospitalisation of children in developed countries and increases the risk of asthma in childhood yet no effective vaccine has been developed. The incidence of aspergillosis, one of the most common chronic lung infections in children and a particular problem for asthmatics, is also increasing.

The main reason underlying the failure to improve treatments and cures is inadequate understanding of the causes and progression of lung diseases at the molecular and cellular level. This action involved a multi-disciplinary consortium of researchers with lung cell biology, microbiology, immunology and bioinformatics expertise. The project aimed to develop proteomics as a platform technology to expedite identification of the key intracellular signalling pathways involved in normal lung repair processes and subsequently in the major respiratory disease processes, namely asthma and aspergillus fumigatus fungal infection.

Bioinformatics techniques were developed in parallel and applied as a novel approach to increasing understanding of lung signalling networks. During the programme, four Marie Curie Fellows were recruited to work in four different laboratories at National University of Ireland (NUI) Maynooth and two researchers from NUI Maynooth carried out placements at the University of California (UC) Davis, United States of America.

The programme was highly successful in several aspects. The Marie Curie fellows who were recruited to NUI Maynooth transferred cutting edge technologies in the areas of mammalian cell and fungal cell proteomics to groups in the Biology Department. This resulted in a rapid and effective 'up-skilling' of Department personnel at postgraduate, postdoctorate, principal investigator and undergraduate levels in these key technical areas. Furthermore, these technologies were used to advance our understanding of specific areas of lung research. The researchers who worked at UC Davis were trained to extract proteins from various types of lung disease models. In addition to research, the Marie Curie fellows carried out teaching to undergraduate students. The work from the programme was presented at international conferences, was published in leading academic journals and some also led to patent filings.

More specifically, in relation to the lung regeneration work, the proteomics and bioinformatics studies led to the identification of novel proteins involved in these processes. By the time of the project completion we were examining these proteins further to understand their roles in lung disease.

In relation to the aspergillus fumigatus study, Marie Curie fellows facilitated the setting up of gene deletion strategy for the functional genomic and proteomic dissection of a. fumigatus at NUI Maynooth. This event, combined with high-throughput proteomic analysis, allowed us to identify a whole range of potential anti-fungal drug targets and provided unexpected insights into the fungal intracellular redox control mechanism. Moreover, the training of many post-graduate and undergraduate students was facilitated by the programme and Marie Curie fellows.

In summary, as a result of this Marie Curie programme, our understanding of lung disease development processes increased dramatically and provided researchers at NUI Maynooth with novel strategies for intervention with treatment and curative regimes.

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