Fire Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships
I løpet av våren 2018 har Nora Lenkey, Kinga Gawel, Eva Cunha og Malte Bieler, våre fire nye individuelle Marie-Curie Fellows, startet sitt arbeid ved MED-fakultetet.
Kinga, Malte og Nora var på plass allerede i mars. Eva (innfelt) kom først på plass nærmere sommeren. Foto: Gunnar F. Lothe, UiO
Et Marie Curie Individual Fellowship kan kalles et mini-ERC. Det er vanskelig å nå opp, og kun de beste når gjennom. Stipendene er tilrettelagt som postdoc-prosjekter for å hjelpe frem unge forskere som skal få videreutviklet ferdighetene sine og få variert erfaring ved å reise ut og jobbe internasjonalt.
Etablerte forskere hjelper frem yngre forskere
For å få innvilget søknaden trenger man støtte til søknaden fra en anerkjent og godt etablert forsker som så blir vertskap for den unge forskeren. Koen Vervaeke står bak både Nora Lenkey og Malte Bieler som begge har kommet til Norge for å jobbe i hans gruppe Laboratory for Neural Computation. Vervaekes gruppe har også en tredje søker på venteliste som fikk veldig bra score, og de fikk faktisk en Marie Curie-stipendiat i fjor også, Anna Chambers. Dette er ganske eksepsjonelt! Kinga Aurelia Gawel er postdoc i Camila Esguerras gruppe ved NCMM og Eva Cunha i Hartmut Lueckes gruppe, også ved NCMM. Alle fire har fått stipend for to års forsking.
Ledelsen svært fornøyd
Fakultetsledelsen er veldig fornøyd med at vi har fått så mange postdocer med Marie-Curie stipend. Dette er svært konkurranseutsatte midler med vanligvis lav suksessrate. Det er altså et realt kvalitetsstempel både for miljøene kandidatene har søkt seg til, og selvsagt for kandidatene selv. Fakultetet hadde kjempesuksess med sine søknader i 2017 og fikk igjennom fire av seks søknader. Dette burde oppmuntre enda flere miljøer til å søke i år.
Forskningsdekan Hilde I. Nebb har gjort mye for nettopp å fremme yngre forskeres karriere. I tillegg til de individuelle Marie-Curie-kandidatene har fakultetet også sitt EU-finansierte postdoktorprogram, Scientia Fellows, der deltagerne har status som Marie Curie-kandidater.
Årets fire individuelle Marie Curie-prosjekter
Project: Structural studies of the full-length human Vitamin C transporters using Cryo-EM
– This project aims at studying the function of Vitamin C transporters, key for normal metabolism of all mammalian cells, which plays a critical role in cellular redox balance and as a cofactor in a variety of enzymatic pathways. The deregulation of Vitamin C levels has been associated with several human diseases, however, despite its importance, the atomic-level mechanism of how Vitamin C crosses the membrane remains unknown.
– Furthermore, the structural basis for the functional differences between transporter types is unknown. Using a multidisciplinary approach, including the recently revolutionized cryo-electron microscopy (Cryo-EM) method, we will elucidate the mechanism of Sodium-dependent Vitamin C Transporters (SVCT) and determine structural differences between different transporter subtypes, as well as structural details of their interactions with Vitamin C.
– Over the last three years, remarkable progress has been achieved in the field of Cryo-EM, substantially increasing the signal-to-noise ratio, resulting in structure determination at near-atomic resolution. I therefore believe that now is the perfect time to invest into and develop the field of Cryo-EM targeting important scientific problems that affect society at large.
Kinga Aurelia Gawel
Project: GEMZ – Genetic Epilepsy Models in Zebrafish.
– Epilepsy is a devastating neurological disease which affects approximately 1% of people worldwide. 30% of these sufferers are resistant to the drugs currently available. Thanks to the development of genetic-based techniques, we now know that at least some of the phenotypes of the disease, previously called "idiopathic", have a genetic background.
– Rare mutations, found in different channels, are responsible for different types of epilepsy symptoms, ranging from mild to severe epileptic encephalopathy. My project aims to generate new models of epilepsy in zebrafish, with a focus on specific channel mutations. We will characterize these models and describe how known mutations affect the phenotype of the zebrafish model, and the type of seizures detected. We believe that this process will help us to identify new therapeutic options for the patients suffering from this rare mutation.
Project: Network representations of contextual memory in a neocortical circuit
– How are memories formed in the brain and how do we remember them? Despite decades of memory research, these are still unanswered questions. According to the classical model of memory formation, memories that initially depend on the hippocampus mature over time, and become increasingly dependent on distributed networks in the neocortex for storage and recall. While there has been great progress in understanding the molecular and genetic substrates of memory, how memories are represented by neuronal ensembles is still poorly understood.
– The advent of two-photon microscopy and new activity indicators, which enable simultaneous monitoring of thousands of neurons, has created new opportunities to investigate these questions. To address how the neocortex supports memory formation and recall using the above mentioned techniques, I will examine a region called the retrosplenial cortex (RSC). I hypothesize that RSC is an important hub to mediate a dialogue between hippocampus and neocortex for memory processes. The results of this project will address how memories are formed and recalled, and could provide important insights into what goes wrong during age- and disease related impairments of memory.
Project: What is the role of the axonal connections between the hemispheres in sensory processing?
– While it is well known that in humans, each brain hemisphere has functional specializations, we have little mechanistic understanding of how neuronal circuits communicate across the largest commissural tract, the corpus callosum, which connects the two cerebral hemispheres. Moreover, the role of these callosal axons, and the information they convey is highly debated.
– There are two main hypotheses: One suggests that callosal axons have mainly an inhibitory action in the other hemisphere, while the other suggests that the effect is excitatory. Importantly, this century-old debate among cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists remains to be tested. Here I hypothesize that these views are most likely too simplified. Instead, I propose that the actions of these axons are rather complex, causing sequences of excitation and inhibition. Moreover, I propose that it may be more relevant to study what information is conveyed by the callosal axons.
– To test this, I will use two-photon microscopy and calcium indicators to study the effects of callosal input on the somatosensory cortex of mice that are trained to perform a tactile discrimination task. The combination of state-of-the-art microscopy, novel viral methods and mouse behavior makes this project very timely.
– I will monitor the activity of thousands of neurons in a specialized part of the rodent somatosensory cortex, called the barrel cortex, while head-fixed mice perform a whisker-dependent object localization task under the microscope. This high spatial resolution technique also allows monitoring directly the activity of callosal axons.
– Finally, I will use optogenetics to inhibit callosal input specifically and measure how this influences cortical circuits and behavior. My findings will provide for the first time a mechanistic understanding of the role of the connections between our hemispheres and provide a framework for understanding diseases that affect the corpus callosum.