In the framework of the 9th Panhellenic Conference of the Forum of Public Health and Social Medicine, held last week in Heraklion, Crete, the “Professor Evangelos Evangelos” was awarded to Fotis Koskeridis (pictured above) for his study on “Multivariate analysis in the discovery of hundreds of new blood cell genetic loci”.
Mr. Koskeridis is a PhD candidate in molecular and genetic epidemiology at the Hygiene and Epidemiology Laboratory of the Medical School of the University of Ioannina, while he has already started postdoctoral research as a researcher at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of the Imperial College Medical School in London.
Speaking to iatronet.Gr “decodes” the significance of the discovery of more than 700 new genes and their effect on the formation of blood characteristics. It explains how this new knowledge is already beginning to provide targeted gene therapeutic interventions for hematological diseases and beyond, and will in the future play an important role in preventing disease in those genetically predisposed to it, in the context of personalized medicine. medicine.
The young scientist refers, finally, to his prematurely deceased professor and mentor, Evangelos Evangelou, while sharing his feelings about being awarded the award that bears his name.
The study focused on 15 common hematological markers, such as white and red blood cell counts, platelets, hematocrit values. “We discovered a total of more than 700 new genes and investigated their role on these blood markers”, reports Mr. Koskeridis and adds: “65 of these genes were for the first time associated with any blood cell”.
This new knowledge, according to him, can be used in the prevention and treatment of blood diseases, as well as other blood-related systems, such as diseases of the cardiovascular system, the metabolism, the nervous system, cancers, which in a larger or to a lesser extent are affected by the “health” of the blood.
“In practice, some of these new genes that we’ve discovered can be potential therapeutic targets, so that with the right medication we can interfere with a patient’s genes in a way that, to put it simply, will block the harmful genes and turn on the beneficial ones.” “, he notes, clarifying that in reality it is much more complex: “in many complex diseases the result is polygenic, that is, it is affected by the effect of many, many times hundreds or even thousands of genes”.
Accordingly, in the context of personalized precision medicine, it will be possible in the future to implement more effective disease prevention, based on the individual’s genetic profile, with appropriate lifestyle adjustments to neutralize any negative effects of specific genes.
Genes – “keys”
A challenge for researchers is to identify “key” genes that have a more pivotal role in the development of diseases. “No single gene will dramatically change the result, but by choosing the right genes they can intervene in the way we want”, explains Mr. Koskeridis.
As he mentions, several therapeutic interventions on target genes have already begun, mainly in specialized diseases, where specific genes with a strong effect on specific diseases of the cardiovascular or nervous system have been identified. “For example, there are drugs that affect genes related to hypertension, such as beta-blockers and others. We can do something similar in other diseases”, he notes.
Tribute to E. Evangelos
The initiator of this research work was the late professor of Clinical and Molecular Epidemiology of the Department of Medicine of the University of Ioannina, Evangelos Evangelou (photo), who passed away last summer at the age of just 47, after a battle with cancer.
“He was the supervisor of my doctoral thesis of which this particular project was a part. He ranked it very high in his research interests, but unfortunately he did not have time to see it completed”, observes Mr. Koskeridis, and shares his feelings about the fact that he was awarded the first prize that bears his name. “He was not just a supervising professor for me. He was a mentor, a man to whom I owe a very large part of my development in the field of research so far, he left his mark on my own path. It was a great loss, I consider it our duty to take his legacy and continue it”, he emphasizes.
The new research in Imperial
As part of his postdoctoral research at Imperial College, the Greek scientist will work on the molecular epidemiology of Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular diseases, with application to precision medicine and the discovery of new therapeutic targets.
“We are also trying to identify key genetic targets that play a role in coexisting diseases. For example, anemia often coexists with disorders of the thyroid gland, or Alzheimer’s disease, which I will deal with, often coexists with cardiovascular diseases”, he concludes.