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An innovative £3.9m research project funded by Novo Nordisk Foundation will explore the relationship between metabolism and inflammation in metabolic diseases.

Obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes (T2D) and associated cardiovascular disease (CVD) – all metabolic diseases – are an epidemic global health problem.

With almost 400 million people worldwide suffering from T2D and total deaths from the condition due to rise by more than 50% in the next 10 years, research which addresses the causes of these diseases and delivers effective treatment for them is of paramount importance.

 

Current treatments for metabolic diseases target the metabolic side of the conditions, addressing the symptoms but leaving the causes largely untreated – we want to close this gap.Professor Claudia Monaco

The Immunometabolism Research Programme led by Professor Claudia Monaco, University of Oxford aims to deliver fundamental knowledge about inflammation in metabolic diseases, as well as identify effective solutions for new medications and prevention strategies.

Metabolism denotes the processes by which the body gets or makes energy from food and stores it in adipose tissue for release upon demand. In metabolic diseases such as T2D and CVD these processes are disturbed.

Metabolic diseases are associated with inflammation but little is known about this relationship. Inflammation in these conditions differs from other types of inflammation in that it is sustained and of low grade, which blurs typical patterns of disease and makes it a very difficult subject to study.

The new project due to start in May 2016 will focus on discovering new pathways – series of reactions within cells – and molecules that are important in detecting alterations in metabolism, as well as understanding how immune cells work in metabolic diseases.

Professor Claudia Monaco said: "This is a huge opportunity to explore inflammation in the metabolic process, in an innovative way. Current treatments for metabolic diseases target the metabolic side of the conditions, addressing the symptoms but leaving the causes largely untreated – we want to close this gap. With the support of Novo Nordisk Foundation, our project brings together people with key skills working to solve this urgent health puzzle, focusing on the inflammation aspect of disease to deliver intelligent drug design and new solutions which really impact on disease."

The project brings together 10 experts in the fields of metabolism and inflammation from Oxford, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

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