Published: 08-05-2023 09:27 | Updated: 08-05-2023 09:33

SSMF Postdoctoral Grant awarded to FyFa

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Genre image by Nattanan Kanchanprat downloaded from Pixabay. Photo: Creative Commons CC0

Researchers at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology (FyFa) is awarded the SSMF (Svenska Sällskapet för medicinsk forskning) Postdoctoral Grant of SEK 3 million for three years.

The SSMF Postdoctoral Grant in medical science has awarded SEK 3 million for three years to each of the following:

  • Matthew Hunt, project: "Identifying novel therapeutic targets for fibromyalgia: From man to mouse to man".
  • Estela Santos Alves, project: “Mitochondrial dysfunction and the origins of the human disease”.
  • Magdalena Scharf, project: “Small molecules as Frizzled targeting anti-cancer therapeutics – Early discovery, development, and characterization”.

Matthew, what does it mean for you and your research to get the SSMF Postdoctoral Grant? 

"Our lab identified that fibromyalgia (FM), a disease that afflicts 2-4 percent of people globally with chronic widespread pain, is likely an autoimmune disease. Additionally, we identified in naive mice that macromolecules in circulation, including IgG antibodies, can only gain access to the nervous system in one very specific location, the capillaries and veins of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG). My project aims to identify the mechanisms through which IgG antibodies isolated from FM patients and injected into mice get into the DRG and explore how they elicit chronic pain once inside. Finally, my project aims to validate what we’ve observed in mice, in human DRGs donated from patients who had fibromyalgia. Thus, the from “man to mouse to man,” in the project title", says Matthew Hunt, Molecular pain research lab at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. 

"I’m incredibly passionate about the work we’re doing and feel empowered working on a project that can have such a huge direct translational impact. Receiving the SSMF Postdoctoral grant is a positive affirmation that other researchers see the same potential in our work as I do, and I see this as a major stepping-stone in my career towards becoming an independent researcher". 

Estela, what does this award mean for you?  

"In my research I will investigate the cell type-specific organelle stress pathways and retrograde signaling from mitochondria to nucleus on the determination of cellular phenotype and clinical outcome in primary mitochondrial diseases, by utilizing unique human material from heteroplasmic m.3243A>G mutation patients and advanced differentiation methodologies to create 3D-iPSC-derived engineered tissues. This research will elucidate the intricate mitochondrial signaling not only in primary mitochondrial disease but also in common diseases where mitochondrial dysfunction is usually present", says Estela Santos Alves, Molecular muscle physiology and pathophysiology lab at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. 

"The SSMF Postdoctoral Grant will give me the opportunity to learn unique techniques and strengthen my skills of leadership essential in my future as an independent researcher. The international context of the grant will give me a unique opportunity to network and create collaborations essential to my future as a researcher".

Magdalena, what does it mean for you and your research to get this award?

"I am interested in G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a large protein family involved in many (patho-)physiological processes, their interactions with small molecules and how signals are propagated on a molecular level. With this grant I will be able to continue my research on one of the GPCR subfamilies, the class F of GPCRs and more specific Frizzleds (FZDs), in the lab of Gunnar Schulte. In specific, I will focus on FZD7 which is a potential drug target in a variety of cancers. I will be applying a combination of computational tools and experimental validation to find small molecule modulators binding to FZD7 and to understand the signal propagation within FZD7 on a molecular level. With the gained knowledge, it will be possible to investigate new treatment strategies for cancers involving FZD7 and potentially also other FZDs. I’m excited for this opportunity and happy to continue researching these fascinating receptors at FyFa and in Schulte lab", says Magdalena Scharf, Schulte lab at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.