A new project attempts to find solutions to allergies and other immune defense disorders using methods from medicine and urban design.
Allergies and numerous autoimmune diseases, such as asthma and type 1 diabetes, have become more common in the past 50 years, especially in urban environments. This is caused, among other things, by pollutants from human activities, a higher level of hygiene and the reduced biological diversity of our living environment.
"Up to one-fifth of the population in industrialised countries suffers from serious disorders of the immune system. In the EU alone, the annual expenses of these disorders have been estimated to total over 100 billion euros," says Dr. Aki Sinkkonen of the University of Helsinki Department of Environmental Sciences, Finland.
Dr. Sinkkonen runs the multidisciplinary ADELE project, which studies new ways to help our immune system function better in cities.
"The project combines urban design with the latest results from medicine and environmental ecology. We will also benefit from the experiences accumulated while developing a diabetes vaccine, as well as from biodiversity research and various population surveys," he explains. "One of the goals is to create commercial products."
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, granted 2.5 million euros to be distributed over a period of two and a half years for the first phase of the five-year project. ADELE involves research groups from the University of Helsinki, the University of Tampere and the Tampere University of Technology, as well as experts from the business world, the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the Universities of Oulu and Turku, the Czech Republic and the US.
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