Millions for medical researchers

The European Research Council has awarded three researchers at UMCG a 1.5 million euro grant each.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The Starting Grant, a personal subsidy, is intended to support talented academics for five years. Peter van der Meer, Sasha Zhernakova and Romana Schirhagl will apply the funding toward furthering their research and creating their own research teams.

Beating heart tissue

Cardiologist Peter van der Meer researches the early stages of cardiac failure, before irreparable damage has been done. Because removing heart tissue from patients is dangerous and impossible in the early stages of cardiac failure, he uses pluripotent stem cells: skin cells that can be reprogrammed into becoming stem cells.

Baby bacteria

Geneticist Sasha Zhernakova’s research focuses on young baby’s intestinal flora. At birth, babies have a limited amount of bacteria and viruses in their intestines. During their first year of life, this number grows, and the intestinal flora stabilises. Zhernakova researches how viruses and bacteria develop, and what effect they have on the baby’s health.

Little spies

Biomedical scientist Romana Schirhagl studies the behaviour of free cell radicals as a result of stress. These radicals play an important role in the body. They help to fight bacteria and viruses, but they can also damage healthy cells. Because free radicals have only a short lifespan, they are difficult to study. That is why Schirhagl employs a technique using nanodiamonds, which respond to the free radicals’ magnetic fields with a change in clarity.

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