(© OKSH / F. Leypoldt)
Clusters of Excellence

Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation

The members of the Cluster of Excellence want to establish precision medicine in chronic inflammation, which takes the individuality of a person and his/her environment into account. Clinical studies and translation are at the core of this work - fundamental research results should be transferred as quickly as possible from bench to bedside.

Inflammation is not actually a pathological process, but a natural defense reaction of the immune system to pathogens or foreign bodies. But in the case of chronic inflammation, this reaction gets out of control: the immune system continuously attacks tissue and organs such as the skin, the gut, the lungs and the joints. The strain on those affected is enormous. Many suffer from symptoms like fever, pain, fatigue and psychological complaints.

The Cluster of Excellence “Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation” (PMI) focuses on chronic inflammatory barrier diseases (CIBD). These include chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), inflammatory skin diseases (e.g. psoriasis and atopic dermatitis), inflammatory rheumatic diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and ankylosing spondylitis) and lung diseases (e.g. asthma and chronic bronchitis) as well as brain diseases (such as Parkinson’s disease).

For a long time, medicine treated inflammatory diseases separately, depending on the affected organ: the gastroenterologist treated Crohn’s disease, while the dermatologist treated psoriasis, for instance. More recent findings show, however, that chronic inflammatory diseases are to be regarded as a phenomenon affecting the entire body, one that cannot be reduced down to what is visible as inflammation in the gut, on the skin or in the joints. In addition, the individual inflammatory diseases are more alike than originally thought. So, for example, because of the molecular similarities between Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, often the same treatments are effective.

For this reason, physicians from various specialist fields are working closely together in the Cluster of Excellence “Precision Medicine in Chronic Inflammation” in order to research and treat the diseases holistically. And this is already being implemented in medical practice: since 2009, at the Comprehensive Center for Inflammation Medicine (CCIM), doctors from various departments have been working together on an interdisciplinary basis to treat patients suffering from chronic inflammation.

Chronic inflammatory diseases differ significantly from person to person in terms of progression and manifestation. As a result, despite great advances in research, not only treatment but also early recognition is not adequate for all those affected. As a whole, symptoms can often be relieved and the progress of the disease can be slowed down, but putting a complete stop to it is only possible in some cases.

The members of the Cluster of Excellence aim to counter this with precision medicine, i.e. individualized medicine. Their approach is to recognize the differences between individual patients with the same disease and utilize these in both diagnosis and treatment by selecting the most suitable form of treatment on the basis of these differences. The latest in genetic analyses, high-resolution imaging methods and analytical algorithms are important tools in this work.

Involved Institution:

  • Universität zu Lübeck
  • Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)
  • Forschungszentrum Borstel Leibniz Lungenzentrum
  • IPN – Leibniz-Institut für die Pädagogik der Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik an der Universität Kiel
  • Kiel Institut für Weltwirtschaft (IfW Kiel)
  • Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionsbiologie
  • Muthesius-Kunsthochschule Kiel

Podcast on the Cluster of Excellence

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