Photo: Lundbeck

Two researchers receive Lundbeck Foundation fellowships

Thursday 27 Oct 16

Contact

Katharina Lahl
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+4535 88 68 49

Contact

Nazila Kamaly
Groupleader, Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+4545 25 81 52
Each year, the Lundbeck Foundation awards fellowships to a number of particularly promising young researchers who are qualified to establish or expand their own research teams at Danish research institutions. This year, two DTU researchers receive DKK 10 million (EUR 1.4 million) each.

New approaches to treating viral infections


Not all responses of the body’s immune system are appropriate. Allergic asthma is a good example of this. Imagine if we could manipulate the molecular mechanisms and, for example, prevent lung diseases. Maybe we can.

With a DKK 10 million grant from the Lundbeck Foundation, 35-year-old Katharina Lahl, associate professor at DTU Vet, will try to clarify the roles that different subgroups of dendritic cells play in virus-induced allergic asthma.

Dendritic cells are the most important sentries of the immune system. The type, location, and maturation status of the dendritic cells present are crucial for the type of immunity being built up against an infectious organism. Recurrent lung infections caused by certain viruses can lead to the development of allergic asthma later in life.

Photo: Ulrik Jantzen

Inappropriate immune system
“Our hypothesis is that specific dendritic cell subgroups protect the infected host by directing an effective immune response against the virus, while other dendritic cell subgroups are harmful in that they start to build up an inefficient and potentially inappropriate immunity,” explains Katharina and continues:

“We therefore hypothesize that an effective virus removal is necessary for protection against the formation of allergic respiratory diseases, and that this has a direct correlation with the presence of the correct type of dendritic cells during the infection process,” says Katharina Lahl.

Watch the video about Katharina Lahl’s project: https://youtu.be/h4sXfTR6Z9Q

Nano-drones joining the battle against atherosclerosis

Cardiovascular diseases and related complications are the cause of 40 per cent of all deaths in the western world. The most important cause of cardiovascular disease is atherosclerosis , which is caused by inflammation and results in a chronic condition in the arteries. Cholesterol accumulates in the arterial walls as a result of a high-fat diet, which leads to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. This may lead to the formation of sharp, needle-shaped cholesterol crystals, which can puncture the arterial walls, leading to further inflammation which may result in a heart attack and ultimately death.

Nazila Kamaly, associate professor at DTU Nanotech, will use her fellowship and DKK 10 million grant to challenge the treatment of atherosclerosis, which is the main cause of chronic heart disease.

“So far, the treatment has been targeted at the accumulation of cholesterol and the treatment of the inflammation in the plaque, but there is a need to develop new forms of treatment that can be targeted at the existing crystalline cholesterol in advanced atherosclerosis,” says Nazila Kamaly.

Photo: Ulrik Jantzen

Nanomedicine may be the answer
In her project, Nazila Kamaly will exploit the advantages associated with substances at nano-level, and she is going to design medicine at a very small scale called nanomedicine. You can think of it as nano-drones which—by virtue of their diminutive size and specifically developed surface—can find their way to atherosclerotic plaque and directly dissolve the crystalline cholesterol, while at the same time treating the inflammation in the area. It is anticipated that this new type of therapy can stabilize the disease and minimize the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients with heart disease.

Watch the video about Nazila Kamaly’s project: https://youtu.be/6uMxbIc-FOo

The Lundbeck Foundation fellowship programme

With the fellowship programme, the Lundbeck Foundation wants to give talented researchers a unique opportunity to dedicate their research efforts to their project for five years.

 

Each fellow receives a research grant of DKK 10 million (EUR 1.4 million).

 

The grants go to young researchers who have been awarded a PhD degree within the past 5-7 years and who are qualified to establish or continue their own research groups within the health sciences.