Volkswagen Foundation funding international research team headed by Bielefeld University
If a patient is ill and takes drugs for that illness, these drugs often lead to further illnesses and complications. This affects millions of people throughout the world. An international research team from Bielefeld University, universities in Novosibirsk (Russia) and Tomsk (Russia), and from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in Kiev are studying how to prevent this problem. Starting in May, the Volkswagen Foundation will be funding this cooperation with about 235,000 Euro for the next two years. The project will be coordinated at Bielefeld University by Professor Dr. Ralf Hofestädt from the Faculty of Technology.
Research will focus on asthma and high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure leads to arteriosclerosis that can cause subsequent illnesses such as strokes, heart attacks, or visual disorders. For asthma and high blood pressure, the researchers are systematically examining the regulatory effect of small RNA (ribonucleic acid) strands. In other words, they are using bioinformatic methods to identify illness-related genes; that is, the genes on which the effectiveness of a drug depends. From these results, they want to develop new molecular treatment methods. This means they want to modify drugs to make further complications less frequent. 'In principle, we could use this approach to analyse all illnesses that influence each other,' says Ralf Hofestädt.
'Particularly in our aging society, this type of research is playing an increasingly important role. Statistically speaking, roughly 80 per cent of the over-70s have more than five illnesses that all have to be treated at the same time. This means that they have to take a variety of drugs,' Hofestädt explains. That, in turn, often leads to a host of complications that may also include new illnesses. 'In the ideal case, we want to prevent these further complications right at the start of treatment.'
The research team in this constellation has come together through the support of the Volkswagen Foundation. 'However, the formation of our team is also the outcome of a long-term and successful cooperation between Novosibirsk and Bielefeld in the field of bioinformatics,' says Hofestädt.