Biomarkers and Metabolism Research Group
The Biomarkers and Metabolism Research Group conducts epidemiological research aimed to elucidate the role of nutrition and lifestyle in human metabolic and immune health and on the development and progression of chronic diseases and disorders.
The demographic transition in the recent decades has been paralleled by an unprecedented shift in the epidemiology of chronic diseases posing important challenges for health care systems. Currently, chronic inflammatory diseases appear as the most significant cause of death in the world. Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. These worrying trends are further complicated from the re-emergence of infectious diseases and their rapid spread through globalization, i.e the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of success of current strategies for chronic disease prevention calls for new integrative approaches to epidemiological risk assessment and targeted prevention. In this context, addressing dysregulated control of inflammation – i.e. via monitoring of immune health in populations or targeting lifestyle and nutritional modifications in high-risk individuals – could provide valid means for attenuating associated disease risk. There is a need for more research on characterizing inflammatory biomarkers in epidemiological studies and on establishing key preventative targets, incl. nutrition and lifestyle modification.
Objectives and research focus
The overarching aim of the research group is to explore a range of nutritional factors and phenotypes associated with inflammation, metabolic dysfunction and associated pathologies in order to identify molecular targets for tailoring chronic disease prevention strategies at high-risk individuals.
Specific objectives include:
- Identification of novel biomarkers related to chronic inflammation, immune activation and metabolic dysfunction
- Development of biomarker-based risk prediction models
- Evaluation of nutritional strategies with anti-inflammatory potential in the life course - in young, adult and elderly populations
The work within the Biomarkers and Metabolism Research Group encompasses a spectrum of epidemiological analyses – from causal inference to risk prediction modeling – using data infrastructure of large prospective cohorts, as well as employing evidence-based assessment of published epidemiological research. These include analyses to evaluate a range of novel inflammatory biomarkers (cytokines, adipokines, chemokines and growth factors) in relation to various phenotypes (obesity and metabolic dysfunction) and pathologies (cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes and cancer) and overall mortality. In addition, the researchers in the group explore interactions between biomarkers of oxidative stress, inflammation and metabolic dysfunction as etiological drivers of chronic disease development. To define biomarker signatures of complex inflammatory phenotypes, the members of the research group seek applications of various innovative bioinformatic and machine learning approaches. Finally, they are working on understanding the role of lifestyle and nutritional factors, including dietary patterns, in modulating inflammation as important driver of disease development and progression. Ultimately, this research would pave the way for the development of comprehensive anti-inflammatory nutrition strategies to alleviate chronic disease risk over the life-course - in young, adult and older populations.