The Mainz University Medical Center and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) are establishing the interdisciplinary research cluster ("Forschungskern") entitled "Data-Independent Acquisition-based Systems Medicine (DIASyM): Mass Spectrometry for High-Throughput Deep Phenotyping of Heart Failure Syndrome". Being part of the 2025 High-Tech Strategy of the German government, the cluster aims to use state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to provide new insights in systems medicine. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be funding DIASyM in the first three-year project phase with EUR 6.8 million.
Headed by Professor Stefan Tenzer, Professor of Quantitative Proteomics, and Professor Philipp Wild, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Systems Medicine at the Mainz University Medical Center, the Mainz-based team will develop innovative methods and analytical tools to provide a basis for continuing progress in medical and health research. With the help of mass spectrometry, it is possible to investigate the interactions of disease-relevant cell components. The molecular biological data thus acquired will be analyzed for the purposes of systems medicine in order to better understand the complex physiological and pathological processes in the body as an integrated whole. The researchers intend to use their findings to facilitate earlier diagnoses and promote the development of more precise treatments with fewer side effects, thus furthering the advance of personalized medicine.
The researchers involved are anticipating that using state-of-the-art technology will provide groundbreaking discoveries, both technical and scientific. "Up to now, mass spectrometry has played only a minor role in medical diagnostics and has been nowhere close to fulfilling its potential," said Professor Stefan Tenzer, who coordinates the mass-spectrometry technology platform and methods research of the new DIASyM research cluster. This has been mainly due both to the absence of standardized protocols for the high-resolution techniques and to the nature of existing devices, which are frequently not suited to analyzing large numbers of samples. The researchers in Mainz are particularly focusing on improving the mass spectrometry techniques used to investigate protein components, metabolic products, and lipids in the blood.
In the first years of the research program, the researchers will be concentrating on one question in particular: What are the mechanisms that influence how different forms of heart failure develop? Finding the answer to this question is crucial, as 15 million people in Europe suffer from heart failure. It is the most common cause of hospitalization in people over 65 years of age and the chances of long-term survival are not particularly good. There are also different types of heart failure, with some patients responding poorly or not at all to certain treatments. Thus, the disease places a considerable burden on the health care system.
The DIASyM team in Mainz will adopt a methodological approach: Firstly, they will be recording a wide range of blood parameters in patients with heart failure using mass spectrometry. These data will be obtained in a large-scale observational study and will be comparatively assessed with similar data obtained from healthy individuals. Next, the researchers will analyze the resulting huge volume of data using a systems medicine approach.
A systems-oriented approach will enable us to better understand and explain the interactions between biological processes. For this purpose, we will integrate several levels of data in our analyses and include, for instance, genetic factors and patterns of proteins and metabolites in the blood. We will also incorporate data registered by medical devices and information on the clinical health status of patients. In combination, all these elements will provide us with a basis for developing new approaches to diagnosis, therapy, and prevention of the disease."
Professor Philipp Wild, who is the systems medicine coordinator of DIASyM
The DIASyM research cluster brings together biologists, computer scientists, bioinformaticians, epidemiologists, and physicians of the Mainz University Medical Center and Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, who will be employing and further developing state-of-the-art techniques from artificial intelligence such as machine learning and, in particular, deep learning. The scientists will use these techniques to identify specific substances known as biomarkers. These can provide clues as to whether a patient is developing heart failure and, if so, what type of heart failure is involved. As a result, they should be able to develop specific, possibly even individualized treatment approaches that could be initiated at a relatively early stage in the course of the disease.
The DIASyM research cluster is one of the first cross-disciplinary research collaborations in Mainz combining research groups in medical science (Dr. Laura Bindila, Professor Stefan Tenzer, Professor Philipp Wild), biology (Professor Miguel Andrade), and computer science (Professor Andreas Hildebrandt, Professor Stefan Kramer). To pursue its wide-ranging objectives, the DIASyM research cluster will be recruiting new academic staff and will likely establish two junior research groups and associated professorships. In addition to the Mainz consortium, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is supporting three further German mass spectrometry research clusters, in Berlin, Heidelberg and Munich, with total funding of EUR 25.6 million in the first funding phase.