Scientia Fellows interview with Nolwenn Briand

– I am working on rare genetic diseases called laminopathies, caused by a specific mutation, Nolwenn Briand says. She is one of the 82 postdoctoral fellows at the Scientia Fellows programme.

Nolwenn Briand working in laboratory.

Nolwenn Briand in the lab at Department of molecular medicine at UiO. Photo: Øystein Horgmo/UiO

Nolwenn Briand is a member of the research group "Chromatin regulation in adipose stem cellsworks" in CollasLab, at the Department of molecular medicine, and has been a fellow at the Scientia Fellows-programme since October 2015.

After she started her fellowship she has taken on the role as project leader on the research project «Lipodystrophic laminopathies», a role she will continue in after her fellowship. The project constitutes one of the four pillars in CollasLab.

Photo: Facsimile

Recently, the results of Briand's Scientia Fellows project were published in Human molecular genetics and made the cover of the journal.

We asked her to tell us a little about her Scientia Fellows experience and research project. 

– What was your SF-projects about ? 

I am working on rare genetic diseases called laminopathies, caused by a mutation of lamin A, a structural protein of the cell nucleus that interacts with DNA and regulates gene expression.

– During my first postdoc at Inserm in Paris, I reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells from laminopathic patients with a  given mutation (p.R482W) in lamin A, that causes a multi-tissue phenotype affecting adipose tissue, skeletal muscles, blood vessels. I then joined the group of Professor Collas as a Scientia fellow to study the effects of this lamin A mutation on dynamic lamin A-genome interactions during development.  

– What did you find?

– When the lamin A protein is mutated, it fails to interact with DNA on specific sites. This eventually changes the fate of the cells.

– We found that in patient-derived iPS cells, the p.R482W mutation in lamin A deregulates an important developmental gene.  We observed a decreased interaction of the mutated Lamin A to this gene locus, and a defective recruitment of an epigenetic modifier complex called PRC2. This work has been published earlier this year in Human Molecular Genetics

Read more interviews with fellows at the Scientia Fellows programme

What are you working on now?

I am now coordinating a new project recently funded by the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority. We want to investigate the role of lamin A on the regulation of genome conformation during adipose differentiation.

In particular, I want to understand why the p.R482W Lamin A mutation differentially affects specific human fat depots. We expect this project will unveil new aspects of adipocyte biology, relevant not only in the context of this rare genetic disease, but also for obesity, one of the most serious current public health challenges.

 Where do you think your field of research will be in ten years?

The field of genome organization has evolved incredibly fast over the last years, with the development of genome-wide conformation capture and new imaging technologies. As technology advances, and allows to address more and more precise questions on genome behavior and regulation, I think we can expect major insights in the upcoming years. 

 How is a typical day for you as a researcher at MED?

Well, this varies a lot – and that’s what I love about this job. It ranges from bench work - doing cell culture and performing experiments – to data analysis, project brainstorming with colleagues, preparing presentations, reading papers. There is also often an interesting seminar to attend around lunch time at the Faculty of medicine, or at the Oslo Science park nearby.

Nolwenn Briand together with her Scientia Fellows host, professor Philippe Collas. Photo: Øystein Horgmo/UiO

 Why did you choose to apply for a Scientia Fellows postdoc position? 

I wanted to join Collaslab to acquire new technical skills and knowledge in epigenetics, a field in which the lab has an internationally recognized expertise. I was also attracted by the multidisciplinary environment of the lab. Professor Collas suggested I apply for the Marie Curie COFUND Scientia Fellows program. This has proven to be an excellent decision!

What have you learned as a SF-fellow and what do you think your colleagues have learned from you?

The Collas lab combines cell biology, genomics, computational biology and physics to study nuclear architecture. I joined the team with a background in adipose tissue pathophysiology and found a very challenging and stimulating working environment.

– We all have very different backgrounds and use various approaches to address the role of chromatin conformation in cell fate decisions. I am now convinced this cross-disciplinary approach is necessary to achieve significant insights in our field.

 How does participating in Scientia Fellows benefit postdoctoral candidates?

I think the Scientia Fellow program offers a great scientific environment. There is also the opportunity to participate in various courses on leadership, research management and supervision. This is a good support for career development.

 To whom would you recommend a Scientia Fellows postdoc position?

I would definitely recommend it to any young researchers who want to pursue an academic career.

Read more interviews with fellows at the Scientia Fellows programme

Published May 15, 2018 2:36 PM - Last modified Mar. 18, 2019 8:54 AM