Scientists from the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology visited the campus of the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) in Rwanda. The aim of their trip was to plan a joint research project. In this, factors are to be examined that influence the development, health and illnesses of children in urban and rural regions of Rwanda and Germany.
The Leipzig scientist Prof. Dr. Antje Körner and the physiologist Prof. Dr. Robert Ojiambo from Rwanda is leading the project. “We know that in addition to hereditary predisposition, the living environment in particular has a decisive influence on the development of diseases such as obesity and diabetes. In emerging countries like Rwanda, this living environment is currently changing rapidly, almost in fast motion. This is accompanied by a massive increase in environmentally-related, so-called civilization diseases. On the other hand, this offers the opportunity to better understand and prevent decisive influencing factors and mechanisms,” explains pediatrician Prof. Körner. This project thus ties in with existing initiatives at the University of Leipzig, the Leipzig Helmholtz Institute for Metabolism, Obesity and Vascular Research (HI-MAG) and the German Center for Child and Adolescent Health (DZKJ).
Identify risk factors
The German-Rwandan research team entered into dialogue on site with actors from the University of Global Health Equity, members of the health authorities, employees in hospitals and educators. Together they visited schools, markets and other areas of public life in the East African country to see which different conditions could currently contribute to children's development and health. Both on the part of the national health authority in Rwanda as well as on the part of the university (UGHE), the planned cooperation project is supported with great interest and enthusiasm - in particular because of the scientific focus on non-communicable diseases.
In their research project, the scientists from Germany and Africa want to work together to identify various risk factors that endanger the healthy development of children. For this purpose, cohort studies will be established or expanded in Rwanda and then longitudinally with data from the Leipzig cohorts such as LIFE Child and CrescNet compared. "I am impressed by the infrastructure that has already been created to carry out a cohort study of scientists in Rwanda," says Prof. Torsten Schöneberg. He is also part of the team and, in addition to his research and teaching activities at the Medical Faculty of the University of Leipzig, has also been a professor at the UGHE in Rwanda since 2021.
A Start-up funding from the German Research Society (DFG) the project is designed. At the end of March, Prof. Körner, Prof. Schöneberg and the Rwandan expert Prof. Ojiambo, who is also visiting the University of Leipzig for this purpose, will present the status of the project preparations at a DFG status workshop. In the next step, the scientists from Rwanda will visit the University of Leipzig and get to know the structures of epidemiological research on site, including LIFE Child and CrescNet including IT data management and biobanking.
Source: Press release University of Leipzig from April 28.03.2023th, XNUMX