FNR CORE funding for five research projects at LIH

2018 - 02 - 16

The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) supports multi-annual thematic research programmes with its central funding instrument CORE. Five research projects submitted by LIH have been selected for this valuable third-party funding by international expert committees and will start in 2018.

Discover below what these projects are about.

Dr Yvan Devaux, Head of the Cardiovascular Research Unit (Department of Population Health), will investigate “Long non-coding RNAs to predict outcome after cardiac arrest”. His research project with the acronym “PACA” is aimed at identifying and validating a set of long non-coding RNAs and circular RNAs that have a prognostic value for the health outcome of patients having survived a cardiac arrest. Data from several cohorts of patients with cardiac arrest will be used for an extensive and independent biomarker validation. Collaborators of this project are the “Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg” and the Helsingborg Hospital in Sweden. ‘The results of this project will constitute the basis for the development and commercialisation of an in vitro diagnostic assay - a step forward towards the implementation of personalised medicine in the field of cardiovascular disease’, underlines Dr Devaux.

Dr Gunnar Dittmar, Head of the Proteome and Genome Research Unit (Department of Oncology), will conduct the project “PrISMaHif for a “Comprehensive analysis of the Hif1α interactome and its regulation by post-translational modifications”. Hif1α is a subunit of the transcription factor HIF-1 that plays an essential role in the metabolic switch from oxidative phosphorylation to glycolysis. This switch happens when cells lack oxygen, for example inside tumours. Hif1 α is subject to numerous post-translational modifications and interactions with other proteins that are not well understood yet. A newly developed protein interaction screening technology will be used to characterise the interactions and their regulation by post-translational modifications. ‘This study will lead to a better understanding of the regulation of gene expression by Hif1α and will identify new regulatory pathways, which can be exploited for targeted cancer therapies’, highlights Dr Dittmar.

Dr Christiane Hilger, principal investigator at the “Molecular and Translational Allergology” research group (Allergology - Immunology - Inflammation Research Unit, Department of Infection and Immunity), will initiate a project entitled “Targeting key factors involved in immune reactions mediated by tick bites to the carbohydrate alpha-Gal” or shortly “IRGal”. Tick bites are thought to induce the generation of specific IgE-antibodies directed at the carbohydrate alpha-Gal. These antibodies are associated with a delayed form of anaphylaxis that can be triggered upon consumption of red meat or innards - the so-called alpha-Gal syndrome. Dr Hilger explains: ‘We aim to identify the allergenic molecules involved and to investigate the mechanisms underlying the sensitisation process to improve our basic knowledge on immune responses to carbohydrates and provide new targets for therapeutic intervention.’ This is a bilateral project supported by both the FNR and the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft” (DFG), and conducted in collaboration with the local hospital “Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg” and German research groups from the Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen and the Technical University Munich.

Dr Petr Nazarov, scientist in the “Bioinformatics and Modelling” research group (Proteome and Genome Research Unit, Department of Oncology), will carry out the project “DEMICS” on the “Decomposition of mixed transcriptomes for classification of heterogeneous tumour samples”. The majority of biological samples analysed with omics techniques such as microarrays or next-generation sequencing are heterogeneous at the cellular level, especially tumour samples containing subtypes of cancer cells and stromal cells. The main goal of this project is to improve patient classification using information about statistically independent transcriptional signals found in an ensemble of cell subpopulations. To decompose the bulk transcriptome into such signals, a computational method called “independent component analysis” will be applied. ‘In addition to improved patient classification, our methodology will provide new insights into processes taking place in distinct cell types, identify the key regulators involved, and ultimately point to new therapeutic targets’, emphasises Dr Nazarov. The project involves a collaboration with the Institut Curie Research Centre in Paris, France.

Dr Maria Ruiz-Castell, scientist at the Epidemiology and Public Health Research Unit (Department of Population Health), received support for her project “iMPACT.lu” standing for “Micronutrients, pollutants and cardiometabolic health in Luxembourg”. This project shall advance the understanding of the effect of environmental pollutants and dietary-derived constituents like micronutrients on cardiometabolic diseases and associated risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia or diabetes in Luxembourg. The funding will enable to analyse data from the European Health Examination Survey in Luxembourg (EHES-LUX) a cross-sectional population-based survey conducted by the Department of Population Health in 2013-2015. ‘We hope that the results of this project will impact on public health policies targeting environmental conditions and diet as a key strategy to improve health’, stresses Dr Ruiz-Castell.