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On the trails of the emergence of autoimmune diseases

(Vienna, 21 Dec. 2010) The EU project “INTRICATE” aims to explore the effects of infection on the emergence of autoimmune diseases. The project is coordinated by Renate Kain and managed by Andrew Rees, both from the Clinical Institute of Pathology at MedUni Vienna.

In the “INTRICATE” project diseases in which – for autoimmunological reasons – small vessels are destroyed (small vessel vasculitis or SVV), are specifically explored as a “prototypical model”. The precise mechanisms for how these diseases develop have not been conclusively explained to date, but there is a connection with infection as a trigger of the illness.

In an extensive study setting, patients in Europe and North America are examined for genetic factors, environmental influences and germs which might be involved in the development of vasculitis. By applying state-of-the-art methods, antibody profiles both against the body’s own proteins and against bacteria components are created to explore the mechanisms of auto-immunity due to infection. This approach is expected to enable the identification of biomarkers for diagnosing and treating the autoimmune disease.

The fact that management and coordination of this project have been assigned to Kain and Rees is not least due to their joint work which was published in the medical journal Nature Medicine in 2008. In collaboration with the head of the Clinical Institute of Pathology, Univ. Prof. Dr. Kerjaschki, this work was the first to conclusively prove a molecular association between bacterial infections and the emergence of inflammatory vascular diseases. As a result of this research project the consortium was also founded which is now responsible for “INTRICATE”.

Project info:
“INTRICATE” is a medium-scale collaborative project which is given funds of around 6 million euros by the EU as part of the 7th Framework Programme. The project is coordinated by Ao. Univ. Prof. Dr. Renate Kain, PhD at MedUni Vienna with the assistance of the management firm gabo:mi in Munich and carried out under the project management of Univ. Prof. Dr. Andrew Rees FMedSci FRCP. The consortium comprises 11 international partners (8 academic partners, 2 small and medium-sized companies, 1 management firm), including renowned scientists from the Max Planck Society in Munich, the Groningen University Hospital, the Denmark University of Technology, Cambridge University, the University Clinic of Bonn, Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.