Scientists to study inflammatory diseases using the Amazon

31 Jan 2012

Aerial view of the Amazon Rainforest

An international research project involving scientists from Europe and Brazil has been granted €3m under the EU FP7 programme to pioneer research into inflammatory disorders. The scientists will by studying tropical plants in the Amazon Rainforest, with the ultimate aim of progressing the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

Certain plants in Amazonia are known for their inflammatory properties, so Brazilian scientists with knowledge of herbal remedies used by Amazonian natives will be working with the EU scientists. And the ultimate aim is to take the research findings back to the lab, carry out clinical trials and improve the treatement of such disorders as Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Termed TIMER or ‘Targeting novel mechanisms of resolution in inflammation’ the project also includes scientists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

As well as TCD, the other entities and institutions involved are:

  • Fondazione Humanitas per la Ricerca, Italy
  • Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • Universidade of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz, Brazil
  • Fondazione per l’Istituto di Ricerca in Biomedicina, Switzerland
  • University of Glasgow, UK
  • Telormedix SA, Switzerland
  • Merck Serono SA, Switzerland
  • ALTA Ricerca e Sviluppo in Biotecnologie S.r.l.u., Italy

Luke O'Neill, a professor of biochemistry at TCD's School of Biochemistry and Immunology

Professor Luke O’Neill

Luke O’Neill, a professor of biochemistry at TCD’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology, said today he will be studying the effects of plant-derived anti-inflammatory agents collected from the Amazon Rainforest on innate immune processes important for such diseases as Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

“This is a very exciting collaborative project between laboratories in Europe and Brazil.  It will involve the testing of compounds derived from Brazilian tropical plants for anti-inflammatory properties.  These plants have been identified by Brazilian scientists with a knowledge of herbal remedies used by native peoples in the Amazon and are showing promise for inflammatory diseases,” said O’Neill this afternoon.

He said the research programme will cover aspects from the discovery of novel natural compounds to basic research to clinical trials.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic