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Technological platforms boost European cardiovascular research

Proteomics, bioinformatics and Zebrafish are the novel tools set up by the European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN).

Advanced technology is crucial to today’s biomedical research. But it is expensive and it requires specific expertise, which is expensive too. Then sharing becomes a must. And it guarantees a high level of cooperation among research groups throughout Europe. In 2006, the European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN), a Network of Excellence funded by the European Union within its 6th Framework Programme, has launched three platforms, all of them representing cutting edge tools in the field of cardiovascular science and aimed at strengthening and improving the research effectiveness of the Network. The platforms were presented during the Third EVGN annual Conference (Toulouse, 11-14 December 2006).

The Zebrafish platform (Zebrafish, the fish Danio rerio, is an extremely versatile model organism in modern molecular biology) intends to provide EVGN scientists with a direct access to the Zebrafish model system for in vivo studies of cardiovascular development and disease. The Zebrafish platform is based at IFOM, the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology (Milan, Italy) and it is led by EVGN scientist Marina Mione.

The bioinformatics platform will provide EVGN researchers with a comprehensive set of software and web tools for storing, accessing, analyzing and elaborating the huge amount of data that comes from today’s high throughput technologies (in particular, gene and protein expression data). The platform is managed by Anton Horrevoets of the Academisch Medisch Centrum (University of Amsterdam).

Last but not least, an innovative proteomic platform has been launched, to perform advanced studies on structure and function of the proteins involved in the process of formation and development of cardiovascular disease. The promise of proteomics in this field is to carry out large scale-studies of gene expression at the protein level, providing the basis for a detailed understanding of pathophysiological mechanisms and leading to the discovery of potential targets for drug development. The EVGN proteomic platform is managed by Manuel Mayr, of the St George's Hospital Medical School (London, UK).

“EVGN platforms – explains EVGN scientific coordinator Alain Tedgui, of Inserm, Paris – represent essential tools to our network. These technologies are necessary for today’s research, but they are extremely expensive, and would not be affordable for individual institutes. Also, every platform requires specific and advanced expertise, and this is expensive too. Sharing human and technological resources becomes then crucial. Also, having common platforms guarantees that we all work with experts with both highly specific expertise and a solid background in cardiovascular disease.” More than being just core facilities, the EVGN platforms base their work on collaborative projects. “The scientists who work at the platforms – adds Tedgui – are not technicians, they are indeed involved in collaborative projects with several EVGN partners.”

The future of EVGN

EVGN, which was launched in 2004, will be active until the end of 2008. But its legacy will be taken on by new specific projects to be activated during the 7th Framework Programme. “What we have done here, with EVGN, was to lay the foundations of European vascular disease with a highly collaborative approach. Now we need to go on. Some of the area that will be covered by the new Programme – says Tedgui – will directly interest EVGN members. For example inflammatory and vascular remodelling, or stem cells in ischemic disease. Several groups and leaders of EVGN will join together and propose innovative actions in these fields of research.”

The European Vascular Genomics Network (EVGN) is the first Network of excellence on cardiovascular disease funded by the European Commission under the 6th Framework Programme "Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health" (Contract Number: LSHM-CT-2003-503254).

The Third EVGN Annual Conference is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Laboratoires SERVIER.

Francesca Noceti | alfa
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