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22 Nov 2021 by Ludwig Boltzmann

Graz Lung Research Cluster presents focus centre in the field of lung research

With the presentation of the “Lung Research Cluster”, the Medical University of Graz (Med Uni Graz) together with the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG) introduces a new sustainable focus centre in the field of lung research in Graz.

The common goal of the cluster is to characterise cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to the development of severe lung diseases and to develop innovative strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The disease spectrum includes the independent diseases of the pulmonary vessels, lung tissue and airways with the most diverse manifestations, ranging from pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to the common and rare lung tumours with their somatic mutations.

Translational research approach

The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Lung Vascular Research (LBI LVR), which in its partnership with Med Uni Graz and Bayer AG has already been combining top-class, multidisciplinary basic research with interdisciplinary, clinical research under one roof since 2010, serves as the basis of the new sustainable focus centre. Renowned experts from many additional research areas will be involved in the Lung Research Cluster on the part of Med Uni Graz. This will make it possible to broaden and further strengthen the interdisciplinary cooperation between preclinical and clinical research.

The focus will be on the discovery of molecular and cellular signalling pathways, the identification of new target structures and the development of innovative drugs.

“The continuation of the excellent cooperation between LBI and Med Uni Graz confirms LBG’s underlying approach of building excellent research work and structures and then handing them over in an internationally renowned partnership. By putting the work we have done so far on a new foundation, we will continue to enable high-quality translational research with maximum societal impact in the future,” emphasises LBG Vice-President and Med Uni Graz University Council member Sylvia Knapp.

“By combining preclinical research centres with clinical departments, the “Lung Research Cluster” will build on the strong interdisciplinary and translational research focus of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Pulmonary Vascular Research and gain international recognition as a focal centre for lung research at Med Uni Graz,” explains Grazyna Kwapiszewska-Marsh, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Lung Vascular Research.

“The planned Lung Research Cluster once again shows the great opportunities that collaboration between LBG and Med Uni Graz can result in within the framework of an LBI. As president of LBG and professor at Med Uni Graz, I am particularly pleased with this step and I am confident that this model of joint research and work will also be crowned with success in the future,” says LBG president and professor of thoracic surgery at Med Uni Graz, Freya-Maria Smolle-Jüttner.

Training of international young scientists

“The Lung Research Cluster will actively strengthen existing cooperations with scientists and research institutions inside and outside Austria and promote partnerships with pharmaceutical companies at home and abroad,” describes Caroline Schober, Vice Rector for Research and International Affairs at Med Uni Graz. Talented international young scientists are attracted and trained in the FWF-funded Doc School “RESPImmun”, among others. Thus, the Lung Research Cluster has the potential to represent a role model for translational research in Austria.

Research results on COPD from the perspective of a young scientist

The clinical study on which haemodynamic parameters can best predict prognosis in patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has attracted international attention. Since only a small proportion of COPD patients can benefit from targeted PH therapy, precise markers are needed to characterise these patients. “In our study, we were able to show that it is not pulmonary pressure but pulmonary vascular resistance that best predicts the survival of COPD patients,” explains Katharina Zeder, who is employed at the LBI LVR and Med Uni Graz and published the study internationally as first author.

“The results of the study have already been confirmed in a large international register of patients with interstitial lung disease. This can be considered a particular success of the research from Graz,” adds Horst Olschewski, Head of the Clinical Department of Pulmonology. “Unfortunately, the right heart catheter is currently still indispensable for determining pulmonary vascular resistance. We have already had considerable success in this area, including developing 3 patents, but there is still much to do!”

a. Graz Lung Research Cluster presents focus centre in the field of lung research.