Investigating the molecular mechanisms of non-communicable diseases
Our research project challenges the view that obesity has a causative role in modern non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Instead, we believe that specific amino acids cause inflammation and this inflammation instead leads to both obesity and disease.
By studying families where several children are affected with celiac disease (or gluten intolerance), we discovered new cellular pathways which could be responsible for causing disease. Our results highlight genes involved in amino acid signalling as well as in type 2 diabetes and anorexia; two diseases not commonly considered inflammatory. These finding led us to a new hypothesis of why someone would develop a chronic inflammatory response leading to a non-communicable disease, such as celiac disease. However, we believe these pathways are not only responsible for celiac disease but also for other chronic non-communicable diseases where inflammation plays a part, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
If this hypothesis is true, these amino acids, together with other molecules signalling nutritional status, are part of an ancient signal of “danger” which the immune system reacts to which lead to a state of chronic inflammation.
Biobanking clinical samples
Collecting clinical samples before disease emerged, is one of the most powerful ways to understand what is going on and what triggered the disease in the first place, and why some are susceptible and others not at all, even if they are exposed to the same environment. By connecting clinical registries to biobank samples we can identify samples which were collected decades before the disease appeared. Biomarkers in blood and tissue will change and mirror events taking place in the body and start making risk factors and molecular or environmental triggers visible. This is due to the advanced molecular and cellular technologies. So called –omics technologies, which have emerged in the last decades.
The Covid-19 pandemic
In the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020, we started to collect samples for antibody analysis to see how many individuals developed proposed immunity to SARS CoV-2. This viral infection is also tightly linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease due to a higher risk of mortality and morbidity in these disease groups. We plan to investigate the molecular connection between these diseases to understand better, why the virus cause such differences in clinical symptoms in different individuals.
Sample Quality for optimal biomarker analysis
One challenge is to make sure the results on the analysed samples are trustable. For this we need to evaluate the quality of the biological samples so that we know which biomarkers are stable and unstable in each sample. We work with technological platforms across Sweden to quality assure the pre-analysis phase of the sample. Dependent on how long the sample has been left out in room temperature before processing and storing we can calculate the expected levels of different biomarkers. We will make this information available to all researches so that they can use it in their analysis of the specific biomarkers to avoid both false positives and false negative findings. We collaborate with scientists at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Biobank West, the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers as well as in other parts of Sweden and internationally and we are working close together in solving this issue.