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On the track of diseases of civilization - LIFE starts

In Leipzig a worldwide unique LIFE research program starts with 30,000 participants Biggest German project targeting widespread diseases of our time is ready for take-off: worldwide for the first time, the Leipzig Research Centre for Civilization Diseases, LIFE, will study the interaction between genetic composition, metabolism and individual lifestyle on a big scale at a single location.

With almost 40 Mio €, population and patient surveys are supposed to yield ground-breaking findings on the causes of the most important diseases of civilization and to advance the biomedical economic region of Leipzig. As a result, new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches are expected. To this end, starting this fall a consortium of more than 100 physicians and scientists will examine more than 30,000 Leipzig residents. In the focus: disorders of blood vessels and heart attack, Diabetes mellitus, adiposity, depression, dementia, pancreatic inflammations, head and neck tumors as well as allergies and metabolic dysfunctions.

LIFE Background:

"It still remains a secret why some people stay healthy for a long time and grow very old despite known risk factors such as high cholesterol and excessive weight. On the other hand, more and more young people suffer already from lifestyle-borne diseases without us being able to predict the causes", explains Professor Joachim Thiery, member of the LIFE board of directors and head of the Institute of Laboratory Medicine at the university Medical Center Leipzig. "This is why we intend to bring together at a single location thousands of scientific research results, which recognize the human being in its entirety - genes and function of organs, lifestyle and environmental conditions", Thiery explains, who is also the dean of the university's Medical Faculty. The LIFE project will provide ground-breaking insights into the molecular characteristics of man and its interplay with our modern world. It is the biggest scientific undertaking of the Free State of Saxony's excellence initiative. In LIFE, cutting-edge technologies in imaging, genome and laboratory analytics will be used. At the same time, detailed information regarding lifestyle and individual conditions of living will be collected from all participants of the study.

Worldwide unique is a partially mechanized biobank, in which more than 1 Mio blood and cell samples will be stored in liquid nitrogen for future analysis. "An invaluable treasure for future cutting-edge research in Leipzig, for generations of scientist to come and for therapies of tomorrow", said Professor Daniel Teupser, who heads the biobank as a laboratory physician and LIFE professor of genetics.

All samples and surveys will be pseudonymously entered into a huge data base and analyzed mathematically. "To this end, 17,000 patients of the university's Medical Center - their agreement after proper information provided - will 'donate' the findings of their examination, which then will be compared to the results obtained by analyzing 15,000 volunteers from the Leipzig population - among them 5,000 children and adolescents, which will be supervised by the director of the university's Pediatric Clinic", Professor Markus Löffler stressed, who is the responsible medical statistician, member of the LIFE board of directors and head of the Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology. "Assisted by the Leipzig registration office we will ask tens of thousands of Leipzig residents by mail to participate in this big LIFE project. Each participant will be able to take the collected individual health data home to his or her general practitioner."

In cooperation with research institutes from the Max-Planck and the Helmholtz Societies as well as from industry, the physicians and scientists of the LIFE center intend to provide first medically and economically exploitable results already within the next two to three years. "I am convinced, we will gain seminal and completely novel insights into one or two of the great diseases of civilization, thus paving the way for improved prophylaxis and much more targeted therapy as is possible today", says Professor Thiery. The reviewers from the German Research Community are equally convinced as are the funding agencies, the European Union (32 Mio € from EFRE funds, 1.3 Mio € from ESF funds for junior researchers) and the Free State of Saxony (6 Mio €).

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Press Conference Research Centre for Civilization Diseases (LIFE)

Time: 27.09.2010, 10:30 h Location: Carl-Ludwig Institute for Physiology (CLI), Conference Room at Dean's Office, Medical Faculty/Clinical Center, University of Leipzig Room: Lecture Hall/Second Floor Liebigstr. 27 04103 Leipzig

Discussion partners: Prof. Dr. med. Joachim Thiery, Member of LIFE board of directors and dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig

Prof. Dr. med. Markus Löffler, Member of LIFE board of directors and head of the Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology, University of Leipzig

Prof. Daniel Teupser, Professor for Clinical Chemistry and Functional Genetics, head of LIFE biobank

Prof. Wieland Kiess, Head of hospital and policlinic for children and adolescence

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Registration and arrangement of interviews and dates for camera and photo shootings:

Sebastian Späthe Scientific public relations consultant sebastian.spaethe@life.uni-leipzig.de Phone: +49 341 9716723 Mobile: +49 163 3025756 Fax: +49 341 9716729

idw :: 08.09.2010