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FNR awards 2019 – Two LCSB researchers in the spotlight

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Published on Monday, 28 October 2019

Each year, the National Research Funds (FNR) presents awards in four categories highlighting both outstanding researchers and institutions, and promoting science-related activities in Luxembourg. During the 2019 FNR Awards ceremony, two LCSB researchers were rewarded.

Dr Linda Wampach, who completed her PhD within the Eco Systems Biology group at the LCSB, received an Outstanding PhD Thesis Award for her work on “Colonisation and succession of the human gastrointestinal microbiome in neonates and infants at high risk of metabolic disease in adulthood.” The FNR attributes this award to researchers whose PhD work distinguished itself by its exceptional scientific quality and originality. “It is a great honor to receive such an award and an amazing way to shine a light on the years I spent at the LCSB” said Dr Wampach at the end of the ceremony.

Her thesis highlighted that during a natural vaginal birth, specific bacteria from the mother’s gut are passed on to the baby and stimulate its immune responses. A scientific paper published at the end of her PhD showed that this transmission is impacted in children born by caesarean section, which may explain why caesarean-born children are statistically more prone to develop allergies, chronic inflammatory diseases and metabolic diseases than babies born vaginally.

 

Prof. Antonio Del Sol Mesa, head of the Computational Biology group at the LCSB, received an Outstanding Scientific Publication Award for a research article entitled “Transcriptational synergy as an emergent property defining cell subpopulation identity enables population shift” published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. This paper presented a new computational method, developed by the team of Prof. Del Sol, that can accurately predict how one subpopulation of cells can be converted into another.

The identity of a particular cell subtype is characterised and maintained by a few interacting regulatory genes. Yet the differences between the subtypes are subtle and difficult to detect using the existing analytical methods. In order to address this problem, the team developed the computational platform “TransSyn”. Experimental tests showed that based on the predictions made through TransSyn, stem cells from the brain could be reprogrammed and converted into the desired subtype of neurons. “The method has a lot of potential for regenerative medicine when it comes to replacing cell subpopulations that have been lost in the course of disease for example,” explains Prof. Del Sol. “This award is a great incentive for our team to keep developing important computational tool such as this one. We are honored by this acknowledgement of our work.”

© FNR / Olivier Minaire