Early recognition for project to train scientists
© Christophe.Finot

Early recognition for project to train scientists

A project led by Aston University, UK, to train new scientists to detect and study inflammation in common conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes has achieved early recognition. 

‘MASSTRPLAN’ is a €3.5m initiative to train 14 early stage researchers in six countries in advanced and novel research techniques to fill a current skills gap in this area.

At the annual conference of the Society for Free Radical Research and the Oxygen Club of California’s world congress, jointly held in Berlin, Germany, Catarina Afonso, an early career researcher based at Aston University, achieved a Young Investigator Award for her poster presentation.

Project co-ordinator Professor Corinne Spickett said: “We are all delighted with Catarina’s success, which both recognises her abilities and the importance of the MASSTRPLAN project which is training our future research leaders in biomedicine.

“The award includes €800 in funding and an invitation to speak at the society’s annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2018.”

The MASSTRPLAN project has received funding under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) pillar of the Horizon 2020 programme.

Spickett said: “Diabetes and obesity are the cause of major health problems in modern society, with more than a quarter of the UK population now being classed as obese. These conditions are part of something called metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes high blood pressure, insulin resistance and high blood LDL cholesterol levels, all of which increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney diseases.

“These diseases are linked to increased inflammation, which occurs when the immune system becomes activated and produces lots of damaging compounds.

“In situations where there is excess fats or lipids such as cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in the blood, the lipid molecules can be attacked and oxidised. These oxidised lipids become sticky, like old cooking oil, and react with the proteins and cells in the body, changing their function.”

The early stage researchers are studying the proteins most susceptible to attack by sticky lipids, how this changes the function of these proteins, and why this makes cells behave in a way that causes disease.