Lung diseases are among the most common chronic diseases worldwide. In the Netherlands, 1.2 million people suffer from either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Through our efforts, we would like all patients to breath freely.

By studying the development, progression, remission, and treatment of lung diseases, we unravel the underlying mechanisms of airway obstruction, allergy and airway hyper-responsiveness,

Our research focuses on the main challenges of obstructive airway and lung disease to

  • identify risk factors for the development, progression and remission of disease;
  • identify disease-related genes, gene pathways, gene functionality and gene regulation;
  • unravel the pathophysiology of allergen-, environmental- and smoke- induced disease, in humans, animal models, and in vitro cell systems;
  • unravel the effects of disease-related inflammation on lung function, hyper-responsiveness and remodelling of large and small airways;
  • define new targets for drug intervention and evaluation of intervention strategies;
  • develop non-invasive or less invasive tools to assess severity of disease and effects of treatment.
Relevance

Our research improves the life of patients with lung diseases

Lung diseases are not yet curable, however, various treatments can help control symptoms and increase the quality of life for people with the disease.

We study the mechanisms of these diseases to

  • to diagnose the disease better,
  • improve the quality of life of patients,
  • be able to cure these diseases in future.

Our research interests lie in epidemiology, genomics, molecular medicine and clinical medicine.

  • The long-standing expertise in identifying risk factors and the availability of large, prospective, long-term follow-up of patient-based and population-based cohorts (such as LifeLines) and the collaboration with the Department of Genetics enables extensive sub-programs, including exposomics, (epi)genome-wide association, genome-wide interactions and transcriptome sequencing studies. This has resulted in the identification of numerous novel genetic loci related to asthma and COPD onset and progression.

    Identification of disease susceptibility and progression markers

    Proteomic and lipidomic research has led us to the identification of disease susceptibility and progression markers. We have a long-standing collaboration with the proteomics facility and recently incorporated our first member from the European Research Institute on the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA), strengthening our focus on bioinformatic analyses of integrated genomic datasets.

  • We are actively engaged in studies linking clinical outcomes to pathophysiology, also on a molecular basis. A good example is that based on outcomes from omics studies, we investigate the functionality of genes and proteins in lung diseases using molecular approaches:

    • in cells and tissues from patients,
    • in cell lines
    • and in animal models.

    We also explore intracellular and intercellular pathways for

    • tissue repair,
    • disease development, progression and remission,
    • exploration of novel drug targets.

    We use in vivo and in vitro models, including complex disease models such as organoids, lung hydrogels and organ-on-chip models, to unravel mechanisms of disease and novel drug targets. Drug targets identified as such are potential new starting points for therapeutics, which we develop in collaboration with different partners, for example with the department of Pharmacy, or with Biotech and Pharmaceutical industry.

  • Patient-centered research is at the heart of our research. Our translational approach includes​​​​​

    • clinical and intervention studies in allergy, food allergy, asthma and COPD.
    • large-scale clinical management in primary care,

    We are slowly moving towards precision medicine in obstructive and pulmonary disease. Our research programme is in an excellent position to incorporate genomic markers in intervention studies. We are actively engaged in the development of clinical questionnaires for disease diagnosis and monitoring of disease control. Pulmonary rehabilitation and novel bronchoscopic intervention techniques are evaluated for the treatment of COPD.

    In 2012 a GRIAC investigator led the first large-scale intervention study of tiotropium in asthma.

    To learn from patients and to get a better understanding of the disease from their perspective, we organize 3-monthly patient advisory board meetings to incorporate input from patients into new projects and reflect on completed projects. We have expanded the role of the patient advisory board to also provide their perspective in the MSc/PhD course Translational Research in Respiratory Diseases, highlighting the translational work in GRIAC.

    • Together with the  Netherlands Respi​​ratory Society, we aim to use basic, clinical, and translational research to reduce the burden and prevent the development of respiratory diseases. This includes all respiratory diseases, both common diseases such as asthma, COPD and lung cancer, as well as rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension and interstitial lung diseases.

    • The National Lung Research Program, an initiative from the NRS, aims to prevent and treat lung diseases. The program has led to the establishment of a national consortium called Precision Medicine for more Oxygen (P4O2), in which several GRIAC investigators play an active role and that aims at better treatment for all patients​​​​​​​

Contact

Secretariat: Ms Georgette Hoogendijk ​
University Medical Center Groningen
Beatrix Children's Hospital Hanzeplein 1
PO Box 30001
9700 RB Groningen
House postal code CA43
Room X4.304

Fax: +31 50 36 14 235 \