PhD Student at iBET awarded with a Fulbright Research Fellowship


Ana Filipa Raimundo, PhD Student at the Molecular Nutrition and Health Laboratory, under the supervision of Regina Menezes and Cláudia Santos, was recently awarded with a Fulbright Research Fellowship to sponsor an internship at the University of Kentucky (College of Medicine), USA.

This award will enable developing the research project “Amylin oligomers: a link between Type 2-Diabetes and brain pathology” at the Florin Despa Laboratory. This fellowship has the support of Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), and it will be a unique opportunity to Ana Raimundo as Despa’s Laboratory is the leading team in the study of the influence of the blood-brain barrier in dementia linked to amylin and diabetes.

Picture: The project team (from righ to left) - Claúdia Santos, Ana Raimundo, Regina Menezes

About the awarded project: 

Diabetes affects hundreds of million patients worldwide. Despite the advances in the knowledge of the disease pathophysiology and therapeutics, it remains one of the leading causes of deaths and of co-morbidities globally.

Amylin, a hormone produced by pancreatic β-cells, contributes for the maintenance of glucose physiological levels by several mechanisms, including the inhibition of insulin and glucagon secretion and the control of adiposity and satiation. It has the propensity to aggregate, forming amyloid structures that accumulate and eventually lead to β-cell death. Evidences indicate the relevance of amylin immature forms in the formation of β-cell intracellular aggregates due to their high amyloidogenic properties. The first aim of the project is to investigate how metabolic stress affects β-cell processing machinery and the consequences on amylin processing and oligomer/amyloid formation. This will shed light on the mechanisms by which unprocessed amylin forms contributes to diabetes onset and progression.

Besides the known consequences of hyperamylinemia in the pancreas, evidences also point out a pathological role for amylin at the systemic level. Particularly, amylin was shown to impair the blood-brain barrier, being put forward as a possible contributor for diabetes-associated dementia. So, the second aim to the project is to scrutinize the pathological role of circulating amylin oligomers towards the different cellular players of the barrier. The transgenic HIP rat model expressing human amylin in the pancreas, developed by Despa’s team, represents a unique tool to address these issues.

About the Fulbright Research Fellowships:

Fulbright Fellowships offer Portuguese students and professors the opportunity to study, teach or doing research in the United States of America, as well as American students and professors have the opportunity to develop the same type of activities in Portugal. Specifically, the Fulbright Research Fellowship aims to help PhD fellowshipholders, directly funded by the FCT, who within the framework of their training plan, have planned a period of research at a university or research center in the USA.