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In Search of New Drugs for Lifestyle Diseases
March 29, 2012   
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A new hi-tech research center in Cracow aims to help develop new drugs for lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The center, launched by the Jagiellonian University at the end of last year and called the Jagiellonian Center for Experimental Therapeutics, is Poland’s first interdisciplinary academic research facility. It focuses on research on experimental pharmacotherapy as well as on collaboration with industry.

“The center is about a revolutionary way of conducting scientific research,” said Prof. Karol Musioł, rector of the Jagiellonian University, at the center’s opening Dec. 8, 2011. The center is part of the Life Science Technology Park in Cracow.

The center’s laboratories are lavishly equipped with research equipment to look for new ways of treating lifestyle diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, diabetes, inflammatory diseases of the liver and cancer. The labs are used by specialists in fields including chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, biophysics, physics, biotechnology, molecular biology, and a variety of modern imaging techniques, including molecular imaging. All of them focus on research into the endothelium, or the lining of blood vessel walls, and its function in the human body—in both healthy and sick individuals.

The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. It produces a multitude of biological substances that protect people against lifestyle diseases. The problem is that the endothelium may also get sick. Then, instead of protecting someone from heart disease or diabetes, it contributes to the development of these diseases.

The center is headed by Prof. Stefan Chłopicki, who has long been involved in experimental pharmacology and research into the endothelium. He studies the mechanisms of the endothelium and explores new ways of remedying endothelial dysfunctions using pharmacology.

The center includes facilities for experimental pharmacology, analysis and pharmacokinetics, molecular pharmacology, Raman spectroscopy, and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy.

The center aims to specialize in a search for drugs with an impact on the vascular endothelium. The researchers will work to develop new methods of assessing the effect that these chemical compounds have on the endothelium. They will conduct interdisciplinary research including in vitro and ex vivo studies and also examine the pharmacokinetic profile of the drugs in terms of absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME). They will also examine metabolites and comprehensively assess the potential therapeutic effects of compounds using animal disease models and the most modern histological and biological imaging techniques.

The search for new drugs is hoped to result in the development of new, unprecedented ways of preventing and treating various diseases caused by endothelial dysfunctions.

The Jagiellonian Center for Experimental Therapeutics will work closely with the Technical University of ŁódĽ and the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow. The research into the endothelium involves seven research teams from the Jagiellonian University, aided by scientists from the Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw, and medical universities in Gdańsk, Białystok, and Wrocław, as well as from the Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy in Wrocław, the University School of Physical Education in Cracow, and the Agricultural University of Cracow. This combination of scientists from different fields joining forces to conduct research in one specific area is one of the defining aspects of the center’s work.

Teresa Bętkowska
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