Metabolic syndrome is a collection of pathological conditions including abdominal obesity, increased blood pressure, insulin resistance and increased blood glucose and lipids. Metabolic syndrome can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes (T2D), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Combined, these cardio-metabolic diseases form a heavy burden on our society and health care system. Clearly, increasing our knowledge on the molecular mechanisms contributing to the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis will provide tools to improve prognosis, diagnosis and ultimately treatment of patients with cardio-metabolic diseases.
The endo-lysosomal system (a part of intracellular compartments and transport vesicle pathways) is essential to acquire lipids and nutrients according to the need of the cell and, subsequently, to maintain metabolic homeostasis. The strong connection between the endo-lysosomal system and metabolism is reflected in the observations that defects in this system are correlated with the above-mentioned cardio-metabolic disorders. The mechanisms that interconnect the endo-lysosomal system with metabolism are, however, poorly understood. This can be largely explained by the fact that (1) endo-lysosomal and metabolic research are carried out independent of each other and (2) the number of model systems to study endo-lysosomal processes at an organismal (whole organism) and clinical level are limited.
It is the ambition of EndoConnect to change this by bringing top scientists and industrial partners from different European countries (the Netherlands, Germany, UK, Finland, Spain, Switzerland) together to train PhD students in interdisciplinary research, with the focus on translating key findings from cellular and preclinical in vivo models to patients with cardio-metabolic diseases. It is our mission to: (1) understand the molecular organization and regulation of endo-lysosomal processes, (2) elucidate how metabolism and endo-lysosomal processes are intertwined, (3) understand how defects in the endo-lysosomal system contribute to the development of cardio-metabolic diseases and, finally, (4) how the endo-lysosomal system contributes to the efficiency of therapeutics.
EndoConnect will provide an international training program for PhD students to acquire knowledge and state-of-the-art scientific, technical, and transferable skills to connect molecular and cell biology research with physiology and biomedical research towards translation. This training will significantly increase the career perspectives of PhDs and allow them to become the future leaders in this emerging interdisciplinary field, both in a scientific and societal manner. In addition, we expect that EndoConnect will increase our understanding of the molecular interrelation of the endo-lysosomal system with cardio-metabolic diseases, which will pave the road for novel diagnostics and therapeutics.