We Add Knowledge to Life

University of Primorska, Faculty of Health Sciences, Polje 42, 6310 Izola
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Research Programmes

»The authors acknowledge the financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (research core funding No. P5-0147, I0-0035, P1-0386, P3-0003, P4-0092).«

 

P5-0147 - KINESIOLOGY OF MONOSTRUCTURAL, POLYSTRUCTURAL AND CONVENTIONAL SPORTS

 

Duration:
1. 1. 2017 - 31.12.2021

Principal Researcher:

Milan Čoh, PhD

Programme coordinator at UP Faculty of Health Sciences:

Nejc Šarabon, PhD

 

Collaborating Partners:

  • University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Sport
  • University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Summary:
     

 

I0-0035 - Infrastructure group of University of Primorska

 

Duration:

1. 1. 2015 – 31. 12. 2020

Programme Leader:

Assoc. Prof. Gorazd Drevenšek, PhD

 

Collaborating Partners:

  • University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences
  • University of Primorska Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies
  • University of Primorska Andrej Marušič Institute
  • Summary:

    The concept of this infrastructural project proposed by the Institute for food, nutrition and health
    (IFNH) will serve the vision to promote healthy life style by offering new guidelines and
    knowledge about healthy, mainly Mediterranean nutrition and at the same time drive the progress
    in combating most relevant diseases of modern world, i.e. obesity, cancer and other chronical as
    well as infectious diseases. The target group will refer to healthy population (children, youngsters,
    adults, athletes, elderly people) as to ill population on the other hand (people with infectious
    diseases, cancer, eating disorders, different chronical noncommunicable diseases, critically ill
    patients). The proposed infrastructural platform will operate through seven specific laboratories
    and entities connected by research subjects: Microbiology laboratory, Biochemistry laboratory,
    Cell cultures laboratory, Experimental kitchen, Simulation centre for critical care, Scientific
    collections and Healtheducational counselling. The expertise and the equipment needed for
    fullfilling this work plan is already well established at the UP Faculty of Health Sciences. In
    addition, the imminent Centre of Biosciences in near vicinity presents a direct support for the
    Institute from infrastructural, scientific and anthropological point of view. It will connect the
    scientists of 3 programme groups as well as with the scientific community of the imminent Centre
    of Biosciences. The research results will be disseminated through scientific papers and
    conferences and through public papers and media on the other hand, all with the aim to improve
    health and lifestyle of people in the near and wider region.

 

P1-0386 - Conservation biology, from molecules to ecosystem 

 

Duration:

1. 1. 2014 – 31. 12. 2017

Principal Researcher:

Darja Barlič Maganja, PhD

 

Collaborating Partners:

  • University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences
  • University of Primorska Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies
  • Summary:

    Overexploitation of natural resources and other man-driven changes in the ecosystem result in the massive biodiversity loss and in the alteration of ecosystem’s structure and function. Current levels of anthropogenic factors negatively impact both, terrestrial and marine systems. For understanding of ecosystems functioning and for planning their conservation, the interdisciplinary scientific approach is needed which include different fields such us taxonomy, applied ecology, genetics, transcriptomics, molecular/cellular biology and public health. As a team we will investigate both, natural and anthropogenic (agricultural/urban) Mediterranean habitats as drivers of both positive and negative impacts on human health. The program’s key priority is excellence in science and development by investigating the consequences of biodiversity loss and its influence to ecosystem services and human health.
    The research program is organized into three work packages: 1) Conservation ecology; 2) Conservation genetics; and 3) Ecosystem health. In the field of conservation ecology, the research will be focused on ecology of endangered natural/human-disturbed terrestrial systems; and conservation ecology of marine systems. The study will include different taxa (e.g. plants, butterflies, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, long-lived marine predators), which are either endangered or can serve as bioindicators of human-induced changes. To provide additional information about conservation of studied taxa, ecological data will be upgraded with population genetics studies with different molecular technologies. The special attention will be given to local adaptation and genetic differentiation between populations. In the field of ecosystem health the research will be focused on multidisciplinary study of health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Mediterranean diet is an important constituent and heritage of agrarian habitats and olive oil is one of the most recognized Mediterranean foodstuff and with functional and therapeutical properties which is insufficiently explored at national level. The assessment of health status of Adriatic marine ecosystems will be obtained through investigation of the presence of some pesticide residues, toxic metals and other pollutants in large marine vertebrates.
    The research program includes various investigation methods: sampling of plant and animal material in selected habitats, tissue sampling for genetic, skeletochronological and ecotoxicological analyses, microscopy, morphometric, genetic and chemical analyses, methods in cell biology, and clinical interventional studies. Our research program will contribute to the knowledge on conservation status and biodiversity of selected organisms which is fundamental for preserving health of terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

     

 

P3-0003 - Development and evaluation of new approaches to cancer treatment

 

Duration:

1. 1. 2015 - 31.12.2020

Principal Researcher:

Gregor Serša, PhD, Institute of Oncology Ljubljana

Programme coordinator at UP Faculty of Health Sciences:

Maja Čemažar, PhD

 

Collaborating Partners:

  • Institute of Oncology Ljubljana

  • University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences

  • Summary:

    Translational research is fast developing field of oncology, where knowledge in basic research is swiftly translated into treatment approaches. New treatment approaches are based on molecular targets which are identified in basic research about the cancer cell biology and its new molecular targets. The scope of the proposed research programme is in the field of translational research, by development of new treatment approaches that would have the possibility of quick introduction into the clinical testing and treatment of cancer.
    Specific tumour targeting in treatment of solid tumours is very important, especially  to achieve good therapeutic index. In order to achieve this, various delivery systems are being developed. Among the delivery systems are also electroporation and nanotechnology (Pharma Res 2007;24:1047-57). Electroporation is a physical approach that by application of electric pulses to the tissue induces destabilization of the cell membrane, which enables diffusion of molecules into the cell that other ways do not readily pass the cell membrane (EJSO 2008;34:232-40.).
    Electroporation is used in electrochemotherapy, where administration of chemotherapeutic drugs like bleomycin or cisplatin, is combined with application of electric pulses to the tumours (EJSO 2008;34:232-40.). Because the drugs have hampered transport through the cell membrane, electroporation increases their intracellular transport and also their cytotoxicity. For good antitumour effectiveness low drug dosages are needed at very good antitumour effectiveness. Our research group has been actively involved in development of this treatment approach and has experience in preclinical as well as in clinical research. Recent clinical publications demonstrate that electrochemotherapy is effective in local tumour control, namely 80% of the treated tumour nodules of different histology have had objective response to this treatment (EJC Suppl 2006;4:3-13.). Therefore, electrochemotherapy enables effective treatment approach of skin metastases of different histology in human medicine and also primary tumours in veterinary medicine (J Vet Int Med 2008 in press). In the proposed research programme, we intend to continue development of electrochemotherapy on preclinical level, predominantly in combination with radiation therapy. In clinical trials we intend to develop electrochemotherapy also for the treatment of deep seeded tumours. The treatment of deep seeded tumours requires new technological developments that will be done in collaboration with the industrial partner IGEA srl. The aim is to develop electrochemotherapy for the treatment of liver metastases of colorectal cancer and breast tumours in elderly women in whom standard treatment approaches are contraindicated.
    Besides direct cytotoxic effects of electrochemotherapy to tumour cells, electrochemotherapy has also other biological effects. Our research group has investigated also vascular disrupting effect of electrochemotherapy, which contributes substantially to the antitumor effectiveness (Brit J Cancer 2008; 98:388-98.). Since tumour vasculature represents a valid therapeutic target it is also field of interest of our research group. It is of interest how electrochemotherapy can be combined with fractionated radiotherapy. In addition, we will develop vascular targeted approaches using siRNA technology and using magnetic nanoparticles. We will investigate the relationship between the angiogenes and lymphangiogenesis. Much less is known about lymphangiogenesis, although it is well established that lymphatic vessels are actively involved in metastatic spread of the tumours. In tumour progression the density of tumour blood vessels is increased as well as the density of lymphatic vessels, not only in the tumour and in its vicinity, but also in the regional lymph nodes (Cancer Cell 2005; 7: 121-27). In the proposed programme, we intend to investigate the mechanisms of lympangiogenesis and its importance for prognosis of the disease. We will investigate treatment approaches for inhibition of lympangiogeneseis, in order to increase survival of the patients.
    Electroporation can be used also for delivery of naked plasmid DNA into the cells; electrogene therapy. Electrogene therapy is currently in use for vaccination as well as in treatment of tumours (Curr Opin Mol Ther 2007; 9: 554-62.). Electroporation in gene therapy is gaining more and more interest as an alternative to virus mediated delivery systems. One of the goals of the research program is to further optimize electrogene delivery parameters to tumours with different therapeutic genes. In the research programme, we intend to investigate use of electrogene therapy using systemic immunopotentiation (Il-12), local correctional gene therapy by the use siRNA against K-ras, and antiangiogenic gene therapy (siRNA against CD146). Besides the use of electrogene therapy as single treatment modality, we intend to combine it with radiation therapy, including radiation inducible promoters. In preparation is also a clinical trial using anti angiogenic electrogene approach in treatment of cutaneous metastases of malignant melanoma, in the frame of an EU project Angioskin.
    Nanotechnology is gaining interest as a delivery system for cancer therapeutics. Among the different technologies the use of magnetic nanoparticles is especially interesting because their specific targeting in the target tissue is dependent on the magnetic field to which the tissue is exposed (Pharma Res 2007;24:1047-57). In the proposed programme, we intend to investigate the possibilities to use magnetic nanoparticles as delivery system for plasmid DNA to tumours (magnetofection). Furthermore, combination of magnetofection in combination with radiation therapy is planned. Another aspect is to use magnetic nanoparticles as targets for teleradiotherapy, by exploiting their secondary radiation as specific potentiation of radiotherapy. This approach is new and has not been extensively explored in the literature.

     

 

P4-0092 - Animal Health, Environment and Food Safety

 

Duration:
1. 1. 2015 - 31.12.2019

Principal Researcher:

Matjaž Ocepek, PhD

Programme coordinator at UP Faculty of Health Sciences:

Boris Kovač, PhD

 

Collaborating Partners:

  • University of Ljubljana,Veterinary Faculty
  • University of Ljubljana, Biotehnical Faculty
  • University of Primorska Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Summary:

    Many diseases affect animal health. They can be caused by several pathogens, due to deficient or improper farming techniques and poor nutrition. This is directly related to the protection of human health. Research in this area include the detection and typing of pathogens, incidence and their transmissibility and to identify ways of preventing disease in domestic and wild animals, including fish and bees. The research is focused on actual diseases such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, tick-transmitted diseases, Borna disease, Visna, caprine arthritis encephalitis, and other infectious and noninfectious encephalopathies. Special attention is devoted to the study of certain types of tumors caused by oncogenic viruses. Another area of research are tumors that occur in wildlife or in animals living in the same environment as humans.

    Recently, in animal breeding more and more frequently disease agents emerge that cause a serious - especially nosocomial - infections in humans. Research concentrate especially on the detection and spread of zoonoses, mainly bacteria and rickettsiae (Clostridium difficile, Clamydophila psittacii, Staphylococcus aureus). It is necessary to establish in which animal species the pathogens appear and if they occur in the nutritional chain.

    The most important vectors (organisms that transmit disease agents) are arthropods, among them mosquitoes and ticks that can transmit viral, bacterial and protozoal diseases. These diseases are gaining ground due to the resistance development against insecticides and medical products, because of weaker prevention and disease control, the increase of population, tree felling, changes in agriculture and increased tourism. Changes also occured in the living environment of some vectors, that had geographically expanded from the primary vector habitats. The research is focused on different infectious agents, on their presence and prevalence in different vectors and on identification of most common vector hosts.

    Animals are endangered also by a number of diseases caused by viruses from different families. The majority of viral diseases are characterized by rapid spread of the pathogen in a short time and a large number of animals are affected. There may be significant economic losses, the extent of which is difficult to predict. Some viral diseases are also dangerous due to the transmission of an agent to human beings. Research includes important viral disease of domestic and wild animals, fish and bees (pestiviruses rhabdoviruses, orthomyxoviruses, paramyxoviruses ...), which cause an extremely contagious disease and have a great importance in international trade of animals and animal products, but they also have serious socio-economic consequences. Research is also focused on infections caused by viruses having a significant impact on health and economic indicators in animal breeding. Within these, the research is especially oriented in studying immunosuppresive and respiratory disease agents. The research objective is the development of fast and effective diagnostic methods and the introduction of modern molecular-epidemiological approaches to detect the disease agent and to prevent the spread of the pathogens.
    The aim of the research is also to provide a suitable environment for optimal health and livestock production, as well as to preserve the environment against pollution from intensive farming and against treatment of many animals in a limited place. We study the impact of drug residues, excrement disposals and organic waste resulting from intensive livestock farming and food processing activities (composting) on the environment (ecotoxicology).

    A very topical issue is related to adverse food containing natural antinutritive and toxic substances such as pesticides, radionuclides, heavy metals and residues of drugs, animal feeds, saprophytic and pathogenic bacteria and fungi and their toxins. Research in this area include detection and solving problems relevant to the provision of safe food and thus indirectly the protection of human health.

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