University of Coimbra integrates research that seeks innovative approaches to treat rare diseases, cardiovascular and nervous system diseases


The University of Coimbra (UC) is part of three European projects that aim to advance innovative solutions, using cutting-edge technology, for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, rare health conditions and diseases of the nervous system.
The research aims to advance new therapeutic approaches for prevalent diseases (such as cardiovascular diseases), for pathologies still without therapeutic options (the case of several rare diseases) or with limited treatments (such as spinal cord injury), with the goal of improving translational research, enhancing the replication of science in clinical practice and thus improve the quality of life of patients, with faster and more effective treatments for their health conditions.

The three projects - entitled "DREAMs", "REBORN" and "Piezo4Spine" - are funded by the European Commission through the Horizon Europe program, having won an overall funding value of over 16 million euros (over 7.7 million for the "DREAMs" project, about 5 million for "REBORN" and over 3.5 million for "Piezo4Spine"). At the University of Coimbra, the projects are being developed by the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology (CNC-UC), through the Advanced Therapies research group.
The "DREAMS" project, coordinated by the Center for Stem Cell Studies (CECS, France) and involving 9 partners, will run for 5 years and aims to bring new answers to scientific, financial and regulatory challenges affecting the field of drug production for rare diseases, many of them still without treatment options. Lino Ferreira, a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the UC (FMUC) and leader of the CNC-UC Advanced Therapies research group, explains that this research aims to "use cutting-edge technology to identify ways to address the scientific, regulatory and funding challenges that impact the discovery of drugs for rare diseases; and by doing so, to discover faster and more economically drug treatments that can be reused in several rare diseases. In the area of cardiovascular diseases, the University of Coimbra is also part of the project "REBORN - Remodelling of the infarcted heart: piezoelectric multifunctional patch enabling the sequential release of therapeutic factors", coordinated by the Polytechnic of Turin (Italy) and involving 10 European partners. Since cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 3.9 million deaths in Europe every year, and given the limited regenerative capacity of the heart when adversely affected by structural and functional cardiac alterations, the research team intends, over 4 years, to "develop an intelligent and multifunctional heart patch formed by materials and molecules capable of stimulating the heart tissue, that, when applied in the clinical part, may help to significantly prevent heart failure in patients who have survived acute myocardial infarctions, thus reducing mortality and improving their quality of life," contextualizes Lino Ferreira.
Entitled "Piezo4Spine - Piezo-driven theramesh: A revolutionary multifaceted actuator to repair the injured spinal cord", the project, coordinated by the Spanish state agency Conselho Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, brings together 7 partners in Europe and intends to develop a new therapy for spinal cord injury. So far, therapeutic options for patients with this injury are limited to symptomatic treatment. To meet the need for a treatment that promotes recovery and not just the alleviation of symptoms resulting from the clinical condition, over 4 years, the research team intends to "make use of the latest advances in nanotechnology, molecular biology and tissue engineering to create a 3D bio-printed mesh (3D-theramesh), which may be able to deliver to the lesion several gene therapy agents and thus promote functional recovery," says the researcher from the University of Coimbra. "The participation of the Advanced Therapies research group in three international projects, all starting in 2023, is a great responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity to give visibility to the basic and translational science carried out at the CNC-UC and FMUC", says Lino Ferreira. The three research projects will hire 10 scientists over the next 5 years.

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