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Meet Nuria – one of the students with summer research project funded by UiO:Life Science

Nuria Pereira Banzon is one of 41 students who received a grant from UiO:Life Science to work on a life science research project this summer. She is working on the project ‘How impaired brain garbage recycling and bad sleep affect memory?’ which is headed by Associate Professor Evandro Fei Fang at Akershus University Hospital. 

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Nuria Pereira Banzon (center) together with head of research group Evandro Fei Fang (left) and her direct laboratory supervisor Dr. Maria Jose Donate Lagartos (right). Photo: Shu-Qin Cao

Nuria has just completed the first of the five-year dental study at the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Oslo. She will spend six weeks of the summer in the EpiGen laboratory at Akershus University Hospital where she will be researching the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Nuria chose this research project because she has always been interested in brain and neurological diseases.

- We become increasingly affected by such diseases as we live longer. Then neurological diseases like Alzheimer's disease become more relevant, says Nuria Pereira Banzon.

Finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease

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Evandro Fei Fang in the Evandro Fang Lab at Ahus. Photo: Maria Jose Donate Lagartos

Evandro Fei Fang, Associate Professor at Akershus University Hospital and the University of Oslo, has already received several awards for his pioneering research in dementia and aging and is leading an international laboratory, with students from eight countries, working on molecular mechanisms of human ageing and age-related diseases. 

- It is estimated to be more than 50 million people with dementia worldwide, with the number estimated to be between 70 000 to  120 000 in Norway. Alzheimer’s disease constitutes up to 60-70 percent cases of dementia, and thus it brings formidable pressure to the family, healthcare system, and the society as a whole.

In his quest for a cure for Alzheimer's disease, Fang has focused on the mitochondria - the body's own energy factories - that are important for both the brain and muscles to function. In a person with dementia, damaged mitochondria accumulate. In healthy people, they are recycled through a process called mitophagy, where the mitochondria degrade and the degradation products can be reused. Fang wants to induce mitophagy via NAD+, a sort of vitamin - found naturally in the body to repair the mitochondria and resume the recycling process to slow down the aging process, and at best this may lead to a cure for Alzheimer's. - Currently, there is no drug to stop and cure Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Assiduous investigation of the postmortem brain tissue from AD patients enables us to propose a new mechanism that impairment in repairing and recycling of the ‘cellular power houses’, the damaged mitochondria, may be the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle of the AD etiology, says Fang.

Will experiment in the lab

In the laboratory, Nuria will experiment with microscopic roundworms, called C. elegans. The purpose of the experiments is to check whether they can treat Alzheimer's by adding mitophagy inducers, such as NAD+. In the lab, she uses a fluorescent light to quantify mitophagy, then she takes pictures which she analyzes. During the summer research project, in addition to practical laboratory work, she will gain experience with experimental design, data collection, analysis and presentation of findings. The data collection she does will be part of a larger project to be published in a scientific journal. - We are very excited to have Nuria, a young and energetic student, to work with the senior postdocs in my group to develop novel approaches to turning up mitophagy, a strategy we believe may be applied to retain memory in the Alheimer's disease' patients in the future, Fang comments.

Great opportunity to try herself as a researcher

A friend told Nuria about the opportunity to work on a summer research project, she applied for a summer project at UiO:Life Science in January and was awarded the project after a matchmaking seminar in March. Nuria appreciates the opportunity to try herself as a young researcher and would like to do more of it in the future, besides working as a dentist.

Read about the application process  

About the life science summer projects 

This is the third year UiO:Life Science offers summer projects to students. One of the tasks of UiO:Life Science is to recruit, educate and develop talented students. The summer research project for students is part of this work.

The aim of the summer research projects is to provide the students with practical experience of real research that addresses a social challenge within health or environment. It is also desirable that the projects provide the students with insight into interdisciplinary research.

In the life science building, which is being constructed at UiO and planned to be completed in 2024, interdisciplinarity - convergence - in research and teaching is the building's conceptual idea. The building will bring together various disciplines and open up new forms of collaboration.

 

Published July 1, 2020 8:53 AM - Last modified July 1, 2020 9:20 AM