Europeans to fight tuberculosis with innovative technique
A European team of scientists is working on making new tuberculosis treatments a reality by developing better diagnostic imaging technology.
The study is supported by the PREDICT-TB ('Model-based preclinical development of anti-tuberculosis drug combinations') project, which has clinched almost EUR 14.8 million from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). IMI is a public-private partnership between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). The PREDICT-TB team is working together with the European pharmaceutical industry; the project's coordinator is the United Kingdom-based GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. Results will help the many patients suffering from this airborne infectious disease: almost 9 million people worldwide currently have tuberculosis. The researchers are developing a set of in vitro and in vivo trials that will give them the information they need to make key decisions about effective treatments. They also plan to optimise the clinical studies of novel combinations of drugs to fight this disease. 'These data will, first, offer us an early evaluation of the efficiency of the combinations of drugs used to treat tuberculosis, and second, they will allow us to optimise the clinical studies with patients,' said Juan José Vaquero from the Bioengineering and Aerospace Engineering Department at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) in Spain, one of the PREDICT-TB partners. The UC3M group is researching and developing the new preclinical imaging technology, and is working on methods for processing and analysing images for the assessment and follow-up of illness in animal models. 'We are going to develop new in vivo molecular image devices and also work on the synthesis of very specific probes for the biomarkers of this illness that have been identified by other partners in the consortium,' Professor José Vaquero said. 'We are collaborating very closely with GlaxoSmithKline, whose laboratories are going to use our equipment, as well as with specialists from the Infectious Disease and Microbiology Service of Gregorio Marañón University General Hospital in Madrid, who have a great deal of experience working with both the biology and the clinical aspects of tuberculosis. This facilitates the transformation of our results into clinical applications.' The objective of UC3M, in the short term, is to develop a tomographic X-ray technique that screens quickly yet inexpensively. This technique will give researchers the opportunity to keep an eye on the evolution of the disease and to determine how effective the treatments are in animal models. The team's long-term objective team is to perfect this technique and make it more sensitive and specific. Positron emission tomography (PET) will be included, a nuclear medicine imaging technique that generates a three-dimensional image for pictures of functional processes in the body. Quantitative measurements can be taken with this more sensitive technique. The group also plans to introduce changes in imaging technology to ensure that better resolution is obtained. 'This way, with just one examination, we will be able to visualise the complete lung of a rat or guinea pig, with enough detail to detect the disease at its earliest possible stage,' Professor José Vaquero explained. The PREDICT-TB project is pioneering research in tuberculosis by investigating the use of quantitative molecular imaging. Each year, tuberculosis affects 5 million patients in developing countries. A cure is possible for only 60 % of them, and one of the biggest challenges in fighting tuberculosis is to ensure that patients are treated for 6 to 24 months. Both support and financing for trials are limited.
For more information, please visit: Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI): http://www.imi.europa.eu/ PREDICT-TB: http://www.imi.europa.eu/content/predict-tb Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M): http://www.uc3m.es/portal/page/portal/home