Lung diseases are among the most common chronic diseases worldwide. In the Netherlands, 1.2 million people have either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. The GRIAC programme is intended to help all patients breathe freely.

The study of the development, progression, remission, and treatment of lung diseases helps to unravel the underlying mechanisms of airway obstruction, allergies, and airway hyperresponsiveness.

The GRIAC research on obstructive airway and lung diseases is aimed at:

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

The GRIAC research improves the lung patients’ quality of life

Although lung diseases cannot be cured yet, various treatments can help to control the symptoms and improve the lung patients’ quality of life.

The GRIAC researchers examine the mechanisms underlying lung disease to:

  • Improve diagnosis of lung disease;
  • Improve patients’ quality of life;
  • Be able to cure lung diseases in the future.

The GRIAC research programme focuses on epidemiology, genomics, molecular medicine, and clinical medicine.

  • The long-standing expertise in identifying risk factors and the availability of large, prospective, long-term cohorts in which patients and populations are followed (such as LifeLines), as well as the collaboration with the Department of Genetics allows the development of extensive subprogrammes, including studies on exposomics, genome- and epigenome-wide associations, genome-wide interactions, and transcriptome sequencing. These efforts have resulted in the identification of numerous novel genetic loci related to the onset and progression of asthma and COPD.

    Identification of disease susceptibility and progression markers

    Based on proteomic and lipidomic research, the GRIAC researchers were able to identify disease susceptibility and progression markers. The programme has a long-standing collaboration with the proteomics facility and has recently been joined by a member of the European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing (ERIBA), which strengthens the programme’s focus on bioinformatic analyses of integrated genomic data sets.

  • The GRIAC researchers are actively engaged in studies that link clinical outcomes to pathophysiology and molecular basis. For instance, based on the results of omics studies, the GRIAC researchers examine the functionality of genes and proteins in lung diseases using molecular approaches for:

    • Cells and tissues from patients;
    • Cell lines;
    • Animal models.

    The GRIAC researchers also explore intracellular and intercellular pathways for:

    • Tissue repair;
    • Disease development, progression, and remission;
    • Exploration of novel drug targets.

    The GRIAC researchers use in vivo and in vitro models, including complex disease models such as organoids, lung hydrogels, and organ-on-chip models to unravel underlying mechanisms of disease and identify novel drug targets. Based on these drug targets, the GRIAC researchers can develop new therapeutics in collaboration with different partners, e.g. the Department of Pharmacy and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry.

  • Our research focuses on patients and their wellbeing. The translational approach used by the GRIAC programme includes: 

    • Clinical and intervention studies on food and other allergies, asthma, and COPD;
    • Large-scale clinical management in primary care.

    The management of obstructive and pulmonary disease is slowly shifting towards precision medicine. The GRIAC research programme is in an excellent position to conduct intervention studies examining genomic markers. The GRIAC researchers are actively involved in the development of clinical questionnaires for disease diagnosis and monitoring disease control. Pulmonary rehabilitation and novel bronchoscopic intervention techniques as treatment options for COPD are currently being evaluated.

    In 2012, a GRIAC researcher led the first large-scale intervention study on the role of tiotropium in asthma.

    To learn from patients and to gain more insight into how they perceive the disease, three-monthly patient advisory board meetings are being held to use patient input for new projects and to reflect on completed projects. In addition, the patient advisory board has also been invited to share their views in the Master’s/PhD programme Translational Research in Respiratory Disease, which highlights the translational work conducted within the GRIAC programme.

    • Together with the Netherlands Netherlands Respi​​ratory (NRS), GRIAC intends to reduce the burden and prevent the development of respiratory diseases by conducting basic, clinical, and translational research. This applies to all respiratory diseases, including 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 of the NRS, aims to prevent and treat lung diseases. Based on this programme, a national consortium called Precision Medicine for more Oxygen (P4O2) was established, in which several GRIAC researchers are actively involved. P4O2 aims to improve 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 50 361 42 35