SysKid: An Interdisciplinary Search for Better Strategies to Treat Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is a disease of silent sufferers. Kidney insufficiency affects about ten percent of the population in Europe and usually develops as a result of diabetes and high blood pressure. Experts agree that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of this disease must be improved. To accomplish this it is important both to understand the pathological processes that cause kidney disease and to turn the insights gained into methods that give doctors new options for diagnosis and therapy.

Gaining new insights into pathological mechanisms and harnessing these insights to develop clinical strategies that will benefit patients are the goals of the research teams collaborating on the EU research project SysKid. »Our hopes lie with the modern methods of systems biology and the close collaboration between researchers at university hospitals and research institutes and those in pharmaceutical and biotech companies«, says project coordinator Dr. Bernd Mayer, who is managing partner of the Vienna-based R&D company emergentec biodevelopment GmbH. Patients’ organisations are also involved in the project.

Only five months after its launch the project is already being dubbed a »success story« on account of its approach and integrated structure and was presented as such at a recent event staged by the European Commission for its Seventh Framework Programme for health research.

Using systems biology to decode complex processes

»The better we understand pathological processes at the genomic, molecular and cellular levels«, Mayer argues, »the earlier we can find leads and targets for new therapies«.

One area researchers are exploring is the group of research fields known collectively as »omics«: »genomics«, the study of genetic information; »transcriptomics«, the study of currently activated genetic information; »proteomics«, the study of all protein substances; and »metabolomics«, the study of metabolic products. By combining the outcomes of research in these fields with the findings of studies using disease models, the results of clinical diagnoses of patients and epidemiological data researchers hope to piece together as complete a picture as possible of the complex and dynamic processes at all levels of the kidney. »This is what we understand by systems biology«, Mayer explains. The aim is to arrive at a holistic understanding of the kidney system.

Applying »omics« to nephrology

As part of the Congress of the European Renal Association SysKid researchers will present an overview of the status of »omics« in nephrology at a special pre-Congress symposium on 25 June 2010.

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(idw, 06/2010)

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