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Finnish-led international study examines the impact of habitat in the development of type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, allergy and asthma

Published on 10.2.2020
Tampere University
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Asthma, allergy, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes are immune mediated disases, all of which have become rapidly widespread in recent decades. The exact cause of this "epidemic" is unknown, but environmental causes explain a significant part of it. There has been a tremendous change in our living environment over the last 100 years. It has been suspected that reduced microbial exposure, increased chemical exposure, and dietary changes may be behind the phenomenon. Identifying these factors would open the possibility for disease prevention.

This week, a group of top experts in the field will gather in Tampere in Finland to find solutions to this global problem through EU-funded international cooperation. The HEDIMED project, coordinated by the Tampere University, involves 22 research institutes and companies from 12 different countries. This 5-year project uses a new type of interdisciplinary approach that looks for common factors behind the onset of allergies, asthma, celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.

“The goal is to find the mechanisms that are common to these diseases. We believe that by studying these diseases at the same time/simultaneously, we can achieve more than by studying each disease individually”, says the Coordinator of HEDIMED project, Heikki Hyöty, Professor at the Tampere University.

“This is a unique opportunity to make significant advances and find ways to prevent immune-mediated diseases. The participants are internationally renowned and bring both complementary expertise and unique clinical materials to the project.”, Professor Hyöty continues.

The project involves several large-scale European birth cohort studies to investigate the impact of early childhood and pregnancy exposures, such as microbes, environmental toxins, nutrition, stress and immune response.

In addition, new diagnostic technologies and practical tools will be developed to predict disease risk and ways to effectively disseminate research knowledge to medical research and care professionals, as well as to policy makers and patients. The aim is to contribute to the development of new prevention and treatment methods, which will also be tested during the project.

As a new opening, the EU has created a trans-European network of HEDIMED and eight other research consortia, funded by the same EU Human Exposome Toolbox program. The Human Exposome program is the study of how elements we are exposed to via our diet, lifestyle and the environment we live and work in, affect our health over our lifetime.

The HEDIMED project kick-off meeting, with more than 80 participants, will be held at Tampere Hall, Tampere, Finland on 12.-14. Feb. 2020. The HEDIMED project receives €12M funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program.

The institutes participating in the HEDIMED project

Professor Heikki Hyöty, tel. +358 50 516 8480, heikki.hyoty [at]
Tampere University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology