Young Research Talents Receive Prestigious Grants – University of Copenhagen

05 December 2018

Young Research Talents Receive Prestigious Grants

Sapere Aude

This year the popular Sapere Aude grants from the Independent Research Fund Denmark go to three researchers from SUND, including Group Leader Tune Pers from the Center. The three grants will help strengthen research into eating disorders, caesarean sections and obesity.

Three researchers from SUND have just received the esteemed Sapere Aude grant distributed by the Independent Research Fund Denmark each year. The three researchers to receive the grant is Associate Professor Katrine Strandberg-Larsen from the Department of Public Health, Associate Professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences and Associate Professor Tune H. Pers from Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.

The grant is given to talented, younger researchers, and the aim is to enable them to explore their research ideas in depth. In addition, the grant is meant to promote mobility between research environments and to strengthen the recipient’s network and career. The target group is highly talented younger researchers who are ready to run an international-level research project with several participants.

In depth with the brain’s ability to regulate body weight
Associate Professor Tune H. Pers will in his research project explore and try to understand how the brain controls body weight. In this project, one of the key challenges will be to identify the biological processes in the brain that regulate susceptibility to obesity. To uncover this Tune H. Pers will use large-scale human genetics- and rodent functional genomics data.

His team will search for genetic networks influencing obesity in mice and, at the same time, comprising gene variants linked to obesity in humans. One of the key aims is to provide further evidence that the causes underlying the rising prevalence of obesity in the world are to be found by studying how the brain interacts with its environment.

‘The grant is of great significance for me as a researcher and it gives me the opportunity to carry out research ideas I have been working on and developing the past few years. I have always been interested in understanding, why some people exhibit a higher risk of becoming obese and why it typically is impossible to maintain a weight loss over time. I hope that this research project can help breaking down the stigma that obesity is a consequence of greed by showing that obesity actually is a caused by dysregulation of central biological processes in the brain,’ says Tune H. Pers.

Read the Independent Research Fund Denmark’s profile on Tune H. Pers here.

Is Disturbed Eating During Childhood Connected to Eating Disorders?
Associate Professor Katrine Strandberg-Larsen will seek to answer this question in her research project, where she will be heading a research group collecting and analysing data from the country’s largest birth cohort. The aim of the project is to identify initial stages of eating disorders, which should eventually result in better prevention and treatment.

Disturbed eating increases a person’s risk of developing eating disorders, and individuals with disturbed eating show reduced quality of life. There are no clear definitions of disturbed eating or levels hereof, and therefore researchers currently have very little knowledge of how it can be prevented. The research team will seek to identify different categories of eating disorders and disturbed eating. And for individuals who experience disturbed eating during childhood, they will develop algorithms to distinguish between those where it does not continue into adulthood, those who continue to experience disturbed eating and those who develop eating disorders in their youth.

‘I am very happy to have received this funding. It enables me to put together a group and thus use the great amount of data that I have helped collect on a large cohort of children. Of course we hope to identify risk factors for eating disorders, but possibly also protective factors that play a vital role in preventing disturbed eating from developing into eating disorders,’ says Katrine Strandberg-Larsen.

Read the Independent Research Fund Denmark’s profile on Katrine Strandberg-Larsen here.

The Influence of Caesarean Section on Children’s Intestinal Flora, Immune System and Future Health
Caesarean section is associated with chronic diseases such as asthma and allergies. This may be a result of a different composition of intestinal bacteria in the children, as caesarean sections are much more sterile than traditional births, and the children are therefore inoculated with different bacteria. Associate Professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen has previously shown that this applies to mice born by caesarean section and that it hinders the development of a well-functioning immune system.

The aim of her research project is therefore to use the mouse model to determine whether the intestinal bacteria in mice born by caesarean section have a disease-promoting effect and, if so, why. In addition, the project will explore a series of synthetic components that are unique to human breast milk and test them for their ability to prevent diseases accelerated in mice born by caesarean section.

‘The Sapere Aude programme enables me to establish a unique and strong collaboration with leading researchers in paediatrics, which is vital if I am to achieve results at a high scientific level with a clinically relevant perspective. Clinical collaboration will make it easier to introduce new treatment forms and preventive measures. Furthermore, it helps me establish a career and head a leading research group among leading international researchers,’ says Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen.

Read the Independent Research Fund Denmark’s profile on Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen here.