The project Training network to advance integrated computational simulations in translational medicine, applied to intervertebral disc degeneration: Disc4All (Disc4All) aims to integrate available data and computational simulations on back pain caused by intervertebral disc degeneration with a multidisciplinary translational medicine approach.

On the one hand, the unique population cohort data from Twins UK (King’s College London) and from the Northern Finland Birth Cohorts (University of Oulu) will be exploited to generate matching sets of molecular profiles and specific intervertebral disc phenotype. On the other hand, cell and organ culture laboratory experiments will be used to pinpoint the most likely relationships among molecular profiles and cell microenvironments.

Computer simulations will integrate these population and experimental data, to predict the cell microenvironments through multiscale modelling, and to extract the causality between the emergence of specific molecular activity and specific intervertebral disc phenotypes. Finally, data mining and artificial intelligence techniques will generate interpretable correlation models between measurable clinical data and unmeasurable, but predicted, key regulators of cell and molecular activities. The final output shall be identification of rational patient-specific maps of concurring risk factors.

To carry this out, researchers are needed in the initial stage who can work beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplines, integrating experimental and computational approaches to understand and manage complex multifactorial disorders. With a consortium of 11 beneficiaries, complemented by eight partner organizations, Disc4All aims to address this problem through the collaborative experience of physicians; physicists and computational biologists; geneticists; computer scientists; cell and molecular biologists; microbiologists; bioinformaticians; and industrial partners.

The network will promote the interdisciplinary training of 15 predoctoral researchers in data processing and integration; experimental and theoretical/computer modelling; the development of computer algorithms; the generation of tools; and platforms of models and simulations for the transparent integration of primary data for clinical interpretation improved by models and simulations.

Besides, Disc4All will provide additional training in dissemination; project management; research integrity; ethics; regulation; policy; business strategy; and patient commitment and public engagement.

The results of Disc4All will provide a new generation of professionals with international mobility equipped with a set of unique capabilities for developing careers in translational research applied to multifactorial disorders.