Partner 2 - University of Tartu
The University of Tartu was founded in 1632 by the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. It was initially called Academia Dorpatensis. The necessary preparations for creating a university in Tartu (then Dorpat) were made by Johan Skytte, governor general of Livonia. Academia Dorpatensis, modeled after the University of Uppsala in Sweden, was intended to pursue research and advance learning in a wide variety of disciplines. The University of Tartu (UT) has continued to adhere to this approach throughout the centuries, and remains today the only classical university in Estonia. Research at UT focuses on subjects as diverse as medicine and philosophy, genetics and computer science. UT is Estonia's leading center of research and training. It preserves the culture of the Estonian people and spearheads the country's reputation in research and provision of higher education. As Estonia's national university, UT stresses the importance of international co-operation and partnerships with reputable research universities all over the world. The robust research potential of the university is evidenced by the fact that it is the only Baltic university that has been invited to join the Coimbra Group, a prestigious club of renowned research universities. UT includes nine faculties and four colleges. To support and develop the professional competence of its students and academic staff, the university has entered into bilateral co-operation agreements with 64 partner institutions in 23 countries. Clinical medicine is a field where UT belongs to the 1% of the most cited in Thomson Reuters Essential Science Indicators. Above mentioned fields are also connected to the Centre of excellence for translational medicine (SIME) and to the National Centre for Clinical and Translational Research. UT is also member for the EATRIS-ERIC European Translational Research Infrastructure.
Research on the musculoskeletal diseases is tightly related to health and research strategic priorities. The overall objective of the Estonian National Health Plan 2009–2020 is to increase the life expectancy and to improve the quality of life. This means reduction of morbidity and mortality caused by the diseases in older age. Our team is focused on the most common health problems in older people - bone fractures, osteporosis, sarcopenia, osteoarthritis. These musculoskeletal disorders cause very large proportion of disability in older age. Department of Orthopaedics is focused on development of better diagnostics and better management of these conditions. Therefore, our project directly helps to improve the quality of life of older people. National Health Plan declares health as an important national resource what should be developed by strategic planning. According to the recent analysis, traumas (includes bone fractures, muscle diseases) constitute the second commonest cause of the disease burden and premature mortality in Estonia. Reducing the number of traumas, prevention of fractures in elderly people, providing better treatment and better diagnosis for high-risk subgroups are major goals to reduce the burden of traumas. As European population is aging rapidly, and with aging the risk for musculoskeletal complications increases sharply, prevention, better diagnosis and treatment are major priorities for Health research strategies for Horizon 2020. National Reform Programme “ESTONIA 2020” declares the pillars for Estonian government policy and one of them is "increasing healthy life expectancy by improving health- related behaviour and continuing to work toward reducing accidents and improving healthcare infrastructure." This objective is directly related to our project and fits with its goals. Research activities of our project will improve knowledge and tools to increase healthy life expectancy.
The main concept of research in our team is to apply multi-organ cross-talk principle to study the pathophysiology of the skeletal and heart muscles, bones and cartilage. This is an integrative approach what considers the whole organism and allows analysing the interplay between organs. Organs communicate with each other via energetic metabolism and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response. General goal of the project is to study common mechanisms behind the structural and functional damage of bone/muscle tissues relevant to diseases. This new knowledge will lead to the development of diagnostic tests and to interventions that will improve musculoskeletal functions, and thereby reduce adverse clinical outcomes. Cross-talk principle is based on the idea, that certain common molecular processes (ER stress, cell energy metabolism) connect molecular disease activities within target tissues (in our study represented by RNAseq and DNA variation data). Project applies integrative approach, what is described in Figure 3 (in appendix). Based on this model, we apply four major research activities: i) genomics, ii) energy metabolism, iii) ER stress studies and iv) biomarker discovery applied to key musculoskeletal diseases.