FNR CORE funding for three research projects at LIH

2016 - 11 - 25

FNR CORE funding for three research projects at LIH

The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) supports multi-annual thematic research programmes with its central funding instrument CORE. Three research projects submitted by LIH have been selected for this valuable third-party funding by international expert committees.

Discover below what these projects are about.

Dr Jonathan Turner, Head of the “Immune Endocrine and Epigenetics” research group (Allergology - Immunology - Inflammation Research Unit, Department of Infection and Immunity), received support for his project on epigenetics named MetCOEPs. It is well known that adverse experiences in early life have an effect on epigenetic changes in our genome and play a primordial role in determining whether we remain healthy, or develop an increased risk for common diseases throughout our life. MetCOEPs will investigate how epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, influence the activity of genes and the proteins they encode. ‘More generally, my team and I aim to better understand how environmental factors influence our wellbeing, and how epigenetic markers can be used to identify people at risk for diseases’, tells Dr Turner. ‘This could allow for suitable early interventions that reduce the eventual disease risk.’

Dr Torsten Bohn, Principal Investigator at the Epidemiology and Public Health Research Unit (Department of Population Health), will initiate the project CAROPROT to improve the current knowledge on the uptake of carotenoids by the human body. Carotenoids are secondary plant compounds that are likely to have health benefits as their consumption has been associated with reduced incidence of several chronic diseases. They have though a rather low water solubility, requiring emulsification prior to their potential absorption, and are thus of low and varying bioavailability. Specifically, not much is known on the interaction between proteins and carotenoids during digestion and on the solubilisation of carotenoids. Hypothesising that proteins enhance the solubilisation and digestion of lipid droplets, Dr Bohn plans to conduct, in addition to in vitro work, a human trial to study the effect of added proteins on carotenoid bioavailability from a test food, for example spinach. ‘Our findings from the CAROPROT project may have implications for dietary recommendations and for the production of functional foods or food supplements’, Dr Bohn points out.

Dr Clément Thomas, Head of the “Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression” research group (Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, Department of Oncology), will study metastasis in breast cancer with the project METASTALIM. Metastasis is the primary cause of death from cancer. An early and critical step for the onset of metastasis is the acquisition by tumour cells of the ability to migrate across tissue and pass tissue barriers. To migrate, tumour cells develop actin-rich membrane protrusions termed invadopodia (literally meaning “invasive feet”) that secrete proteases degrading the extracellular matrix. The METASTALIM project will explore the functional and physical interaction between two actin cytoskeleton-associated proteins that were shown to promote invadopodia formation and activity. Dr Thomas explains:  ‘We will use a combination of cellular and molecular approaches and do in vivo studies in mouse models, to demonstrate that targeting critical molecular interactions in invadopodia represents a promising point of intervention to inhibit breast cancer metastasis.’