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Project Summary

The Metabolic Syndrome is a collection of adverse changes that includes alterations in blood biochemistry, accumulation of abdominal fat and elevated blood pressure. People who have the Metabolic Syndrome are at increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Recent scientific evidence suggests that accumulation of fat in the liver is an important cause of the Metabolic Syndrome. The hypothesis of the HEPADIP project is that accumulation of fat in the liver reflects an alteration in the relationships between adipose tissue, where fat is normally stored, and the liver. The objectives of the project are therefore to address the role of adipose tissue and the liver, and the interaction between them, in the development of the disturbances of fat metabolism, insulin action, and glucose homeostasis (blood sugar levels) in the Metabolic Syndrome. The aim is to identify and test novel areas for targeting diagnosis, characterization, prevention and treatment of the syndrome. The Consortium will comprise 26 participants, six of which are small biotech companies, from 11 European countries. The project is organised in separate lines of research for the study of the biology of adipose tissue and the liver, the integrated function of the adipose tissue – liver in the whole body, and clinical and genetic studies of the Metabolic Syndrome in well-defined populations. Studies will be integrated across all levels from the molecular and genetic aspects, to the whole organism, and to the human population. The strategy implies interactions between a hypothesis-driven and an explorative approach using state-of-the-art technologies. Considerable amounts of data will be generated from these technologies, and they will be integrated and analyzed with novel ‘bioinformatics’ methods combining biological data with information technology. At a later stage, further integration will take place with validation and development of novel target areas, and small biotech companies, possibly in collaboration with larger companies if needed, will play a key role in this phase. The Metabolic Syndrome may differ in its characteristics between men and women, and study design and analysis will address this wherever relevant. The HEPADIP project will have the best possible prior likelihood of providing tools to combat the Metabolic Syndrome.

Coordinator: T.I.A. Sørensen, Institute of Preventive Medicine - Web editor: Louise Thers Nielsen