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European Federation of Immunology funds project on Crohn's Disease

PhD student Carolina Dantas recently won a research grant worth 6,300 euros, from the European Federation of Immunological Societies (EFIS) and Immunology Letters (IL). This grant will allow the researcher from the Immunology, Cancer & Glycomedicine group, led by Salomé Pinho, to do an internship at LUMC Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), in the Netherlands, where she will study Crohn’s Disease.

The project “Unravelling the role of gut mucosal glycome in the health-to-intestinal inflammation transition”, aims to unravel the role that glycans (sugars) expressed on the surface of intestinal cells play in the process of transition from health to inflammation bowel, characteristic of Crohn’s disease. This study, explains Carolina Dantas, “will be the beginning of my doctoral project, part of the European project GlycanTrigger, recently funded by the Horizon Europe program of the European Commission and coordinated by the researcher Salomé Pinho”.

Crohn’s disease is a subtype of chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inflammation of the intestine as a result of an exacerbated immune response. It is a very debilitating disease that affects several age groups, especially young adults, and whose treatment is based on the reduction/control of symptoms, with surgery being the most commonly used strategy. Despite this, underlines the student, “a very high percentage of patients who undergo surgery have relapses, so there is an urgent need to study what happens in the transition from a healthy intestine to an intestine with a stage of inflammation, so that we can stop this inflammation”.

This funding will allow Carolina Dantas to carry out an internship at one of the largest centers of proteomics and metabolomics in Europe and to be in contact with cutting-edge technology under the supervision of two excellent researchers, Manfred Wuhrer and Bram Heijs, from Leiden University Medical Center. “I believe that working in a multidisciplinary team with different areas of expertise is fundamental to the success of this project. At LUMC I will be able to do an in-depth analysis of the glycans expressed on the surface of intestinal cells from healthy individuals vs. patients with Crohn’s Disease. This will help us to unravel the mechanisms that are behind the recurrent inflammation, the modulation of the immune responses, and the consequent development of the disease”, says the researcher.

Carolina Dantas added that “we are also going to investigate whether it is possible to modulate this expression of sugars in order to control inflammation and immune responses with the aim of achieving homeostasis and controlling the disease. This will open doors for the identification of new treatment targets”. This scholarship, in addition to representing “recognition of the excellent research that we carry out in our group, is also a great stimulus for me as a young researcher and is an excellent impulse for the beginning of my scientific career”.