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Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC)

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​​​The main theme of the Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC) is unravelling the underlying mechanisms of the development, progression and remission of airway obstruction, allergy and airway hyperresponsiveness,their mutual interactions,and their relevance to treatment.These phenomena are important risk factors for the development of asthma and COPD and crucial characteristics in their clinical pictures. Research  within GRIAC takes place at the interface of fundamental and applied patient-related research.

Harmonica

Programme Leaders   Mission  

The mission of Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC) is the multidisciplinary study of all aspects of obstructive airway and pulmonary diseases through interaction between clinicians and fundamental researchers. Research takes place at the interface of fundamental and applied patient-related research. The main theme is unravelling the underlying mechanisms of the development and progression of airway obstruction, allergy, and airway hyperresponsiveness, and their mutual interactions. These phenomena constitute, in interaction with environmental factors, risk factors for the development of asthma and COPD and are crucial characteristics in their clinical pictures.

Research is aimed to stretch from bench to bedside and back with feedback loops. Central to the research is the goal to translate fundamental findings into the clinical situation and vice versa, i.e. translational medicine. Questions that are generated, but unanswered by clinical research, are approached using in vitro cellular systems and in vivo animal models. The other way around, hypotheses generated from in vitro or in vivo research are translated to the clinical human situation.

To this aim GRIAC focuses on the following main topics related to asthma and COPD:

  • Identification of risk factors for development, progression and remission of disease
  • Identification of disease related genes and their functionality
  • Unravelling the pathophysiology of allergen-, environment- and smoke- induced disease, in both humans and animal models
  • Unravelling the effects of disease related inflammation on lung function, hyperresponsiveness and remodelling of large and small airways
  • Defining new targets for intervention and evaluation of intervention strategies
  • Development of non-or minor invasive tools to assess severity of disease and (side) effects of treatment.
Description of the Programme  

The research programme involves the following sub-programmes:

1. Epidemiology - Epidemiological studies on endogenous, environmental and lifestyle risk factors, both in general and patient-based populations, from prenatal onwards to old age.

2. Genomics - Studies on genes, gene expression and function, molecular mechanisms and gene-gene and gene-environment interactions in disease development, progression, remission, and severity, as well as disease intervention (pharmaco- genomics).

3. Pathophysiology and pathogenesis of allergen, smoking and other lifestyle factors, and     environment-induced diseases - In vivo studies in humans and animal models using mice and guinea pigs. Investigations include lung function techniques and studies of blood, tissues and/or cells derived from airways or lungs. Furthermore, in vitro studies assess cellular activation and interaction as well as signalling pathways in cells and tissue explants (e.g. lymphocyte subsets, epithelial cells, fibroblasts, intact airway, and smooth muscle preparations). Interactions of different cell types are studied in cells obtained by sputum induction as well as airway and lung tissue obtained by bronchoscopy, by surgical biopsy or autopsy.

4. Assessment, modulation and intervention in disease severity, progression and remission - Disease outcome assessment is being studied with techniques such as exhaled breath analyses and small airway function. In addition, validated questionnaires on Quality of Life, drug side effects, hyperresponsiveness and symptoms are developed for diagnostic purposes as well as outcome assessment. Interventions are investigated at the level of cell cultures, animal models and clinical studies with targeted therapy.

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

“Healthy Aging” has been adopted as the main theme for research and clinical profile of the UMCG. An important long term project within this theme is “LifeLines” a planned 30-year survey on risk factors (obtained by questionnaire, objective physiological data and biological and genomic markers) for disease development, COPD being one of the leading themes. This fits very well with the research agenda of GRIAC, including co-morbidity and systemic manifestations of COPD. We are and will be actively participating in the development of this programme within the UMCG.

After consultation of the programme leaders and all PIs of the participating departments in GRIAC and additional discussions in the board, GRIAC has explicitly incorporated healthy ageing into its mission:  The mission of GRIAC is the multidisciplinary translational study of obstructive airway and pulmonary diseases and healthy ageing. 

Principal Investigators