Why Europe needs to go big on single-cell medicine

Why Europe needs to go big on single-cell medicine

Hundreds of researchers, clinicians and industry leaders from all around Europe are today presenting a new vision of personalised, “cell-based interceptive medicine” that they say can discover disease quicker and save the continent billions of euros. The LifeTime Strategic Research Agenda, published Monday, presents a 10-year plan for nurturing the latest single-cell biology breakthroughs and related technologies, to track, understand and treat human cells throughout an individual’s lifetime. The methods to capture the full complexity of cell types, and how disease manifests in the body, offers the possibility to detect problems long before symptoms show. “Nowadays if you have a symptom that’s severe – say it’s blood in your urine – you go to your GP and tests are done. If you have bad luck, it’s a major disease,” said Nikolaus Rajewsky, scientific director of the Berlin Institute for Medical System Biology (BIMSB) at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine. “Whatever happens next is expensive, and invasive procedures are needed. There might be no cure at the end of this difficult process,” said Rajewsky, who is coordinator of LifeTime, the EU-backed community of more than 100 European research institutions and hospitals. LifeTime proposes a different approach to medicine, where patients with, for example, a genetic risk can be monitored at the level of the individual cell. By going down to this level of detail, diseases will be detected and intercepted much earlier, before the onset of symptoms and organ or tissue damage occurs. “Technology can now rapidly analyse large numbers of cells ...
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