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Divulgación Científica - URosario

Health and wellness

Health and wellness

Highly personalized medicine

In February 2017, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences of the Universidad del Rosario established the Institute of Translational Medicine of the Universidad del Rosario (IMTUR). This pioneer initiative in the country seeks to combine the efforts of the institution’s advanced medical research centers to improve prevalence and incidence registers for diseases affecting Colombians.

  Photos by: Alberto Sierra
By: Ninfa Sandoval


Agreat challenge. That’s what brought Óscar Mauricio Arcos Burgos back to Colombia after 25 years of basic and clinical research, teaching, publications, and supervising projects in human genetics, and evolution. He had previously worked and studied in countries including Chile, the United States, and Australia.
 
Arcos has a Master’s degree in biology from the University of Antioquia, his medical degree from the University of Cauca, a doctorate in genetics from the University of Chile, and a doctorate in clinical genetics from the residency program of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. Until the end of 2016 he was an associate professor and led the Genomics and Predictive Medicine Group at the Department of Genome Sciences of the School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra; now he is the director of the Institute of Translational Medicine of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Universidad del Rosario (IMTUR).

Building knowledge together

“The great challenge is to produce knowledge jointly through transversal and coherent research projects at the high-level research centers of the University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences,” he explains.
 
To Arcos, improving people’s health is something that cannot be accomplished alone, which is why knowledge should be shared and amalgamated.


¿What is translational medicine? Mauricio Arcos (MA) It responds to the need to build bridges between basic and clinical research. It seeks to make discoveries resulting from scientific and experimental activity available for use in direct medical practice with patients, and to see immediate results reflected in their health.
 
It is highly personalized, since it uses the genetic, medical, and environmental information of patients— even their lifestyles and cultural backgrounds—to produce systematic analyses of individuals that can generate specific diagnoses and treatments.
 
For example, the same treatment cannot be applied to everyone suffering from a particular respiratory disease. We now know that there are individuals who follow different patterns in keeping with their age, gender, origin, and history. We are talking here about precision medicine, which can only be reached in the degree to which we are familiar with patients’ individual genomes.
 
The fact that we use technology to produce our own databases will allow us to work with data models that we believe will correspond to our population.

What are the origins of the Institute and how was it established? (MA) The Center for the Study of Autoimmune Diseases (CREA) had already been working with its translational medicine group, focused on researching and applying family-based and personalized treatments of autoimmune diseases.
 


 

Translational Medicine is highly personalized since it uses the genetic, medical, and environmental information of patients.

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The Institute was established as an interdisciplinary amalgam uniting several research groups and centers to produce scientific knowledge for the early prediction and treatment of noncommunicable chronic diseases, and to improve their prevalence and incidence registers with an emphasis on the country’s needs, which is not to say that any solutions that we find here cannot be used to serve other communities.

What are the principal goals? (MA) We have several specific goals that fall within the mission of the University. We want to use the techniques of basic research to answer research questions that arise in the context of providing medical care to patients and communities with noncommunicable chronic diseases, and to disseminate our results for the benefit of patients and communities.
 
We are going to contribute to the construction of a better University and the training of better professionals through the production of knowledge. We want to favor scientific progress and development of researchers in these areas through training.


At the same time, we will work toward defining the populations at risk of suffering from noncommunicable chronic diseases that should be targets of public health campaigns based on predictive and prognostic biomarkers. We will also characterize the behavior of each noncommunicable chronic disease and we will develop strategies for interinstitutional collaboration with local, national, and international centers.

Who is part of the Institute? (MA) In this initial phase, four centers of high-level research at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences make up the Institute: CREA; the Research Center on Genetics and Genomics (CIGGUR); the Center for the Study of Highly Prevalent Neurological Disorders, Neurodegenerative Diseases, and Neuropsychiatric Disorders (NEUROS); and the Center for the Study of Communicable and Metabolic Diseases (BIO-BIO).
 
The scientists who work at all these centers and groups produce excellent work; we have international authorities in every specialty.

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Argentine neuroendocrine immunologist Claudio Mastronardi came with me from the Australian National University. Dr. Mastronardi has a Ph.D. in the development and function of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and its implications for the appearance of autoimmune and psychiatric diseases. Our work consists of sharing and optimizing the knowledge of these research centers and the scientists who work there, as well as the use of the resources available to us. It is of the utmost importance that we have processes for the storage, analysis, and processing of


shared bioinformatic and biostatistical data.

What are the greatest challenges? (MA) We have an initial five-year plan. The great challenge is to begin to collaboratively produce shared knowledge through transversal and coherent research projects across the centers. In addition, we want to impact on treatments provided to patients. We aim to have products to offer to the community in no more than two years from now.

 

4 research centers, 33 high-level researchers,  309 publications 2006-2017
Source: Scopus, 2017

 

Estos grandes desafíos pasan por aumentar el impacto y el número de publicaciones, subir el desempeño de algunos grupos que no han alcanzado el nivel A1 en Colciencias, contar con más estudiantes de doctorado y maestría, generar mayor intercambio de científicos, estudiantes, pasantes de alto nivel, incrementar la aplicación a grandes proyectos internacionales y generar más convenios con las entidades que prestan servicios de salud clínica.

Mejorar las condiciones de salud de las personas no es una labor que se pueda hacer en solitario, por lo tanto, debemos lograr un trabajo interinstitucional. En este objetivo debemos trabajar todos. Queremos atraer al Estado para construir políticas colaterales con esta visión y buscamos involucrar entidades prestadoras de servicios, fábricas de productos e instrumentos médicos y robóticos.

Instrumento compartido

Core Facilities es el instrumento que hace posible la filosofía de coherencia, colaboración y maximización de recursos científicos y técnicas de última generación del Imtur. Todos los centros y grupos que se beneficien de este mecanismo de producción científica colaborativa de primera calidad, reducirán sus gastos y podrán utilizar instrumentos de última generación en: microscopia, genómica, transcriptómica, proteómica, metabolómica y bioinformática.

Además, como estrategia de última generación, buscará la producción de células inducidas pluripotenciales (células madre capaces de generar la mayoría de los tejidos) que desempeñarán un papel crítico en los estudios de medicina personalizada, farmacorresistencia y edición genética.


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