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Cláudia Nunes dos Santos is new ERC Awardee

Research project will focus on the relationship between food and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases

Oeiras, 27.07.2018

Cláudia Nunes dos Santos, researcher at iBET and ITQB NOVA, is one of the most recent recipients of the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The list of 403 awardees in 2018 was released today by the ERC and includes 5 researchers working in Portugal and 3 Portuguese working abroad.  With an award of 1.5 million euros for the next five years, Cláudia Nunes dos Santos' research project will focus on analysing the potential of dietary phenolics in prevention and treatment (i.e delay) of neuroinflammation – key process shared in neurodegenerative diseases.

With the aging of the population, preventing or delaying the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, is a growing concern. Although epidemiological and nutrition studies indicate that consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in polyphenols is beneficial to our overall health, it is unclear how these compounds reach and act in the brain. The work that Cláudia Santos will develop at iBET/ITQB NOVA is to identify which of these phenolic compounds may be effective strategies in the prevention of dementia, realizing their mechanisms of action at the cellular and molecular level.

The studies will mainly verify the effect of polyphenols in the prevention and treatment of neuroinflammation, a biological process common to all neurodegenerative diseases. For this, particular metabolites derived from phenolic compounds of the diet will be identified, which can cross the blood-brain barrier and reach the brain. Then the effect of these metabolites on microglial cells - innate immune cells of the central nervous system - will be analyzed in isolation or in communication with other brain cells. Finally, for an integrated view, nutrition tests will be established in mice.

Cláudia Nunes dos Santos argues that "a common aspect of neurodegenerative diseases is brain inflammation and, in recent years, we have come to realize that some of the compounds we ingest through diet can act in this process by reducing inflammation." In addition, the researcher points out that "contributing to the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases through nutrition is a very promising area and with this ERC I intend, in the next five years, to develop an effective strategy of prolonged care based on polyphenols to maintain the brain healthy."


About the researcher

Cláudia Nunes dos Santos is group leader of Molecular Nutrition and Health Laboratory at ITQB NOVA and researcher in the Food & Health division of iBET.


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