Daniel Bexell, senior lecturer and associate professor at the Division of Translational Cancer Research, has received an ERC Consolidator Grant to develop better treatments for childhood cancer. Neuroblastoma is a type of childhood cancer that affects around 20 children every year in Sweden. Despite intensive treatment, many children relapse and the disease becomes resistant to treatment. A major challenge facing healthcare is how to help children with metastases that are resistant to existing treatment.
Daniel Bexell’s new project will investigate in depth the molecular mechanisms behind the treatment resistance of metastases. The hope is to determine why metastases are so difficult to treat. Daniel Bexell and his research team will use the knowledge to identify and test brand-new types of treatment strategies that can specifically target treatment-resistant neuroblastoma.
“It is an honour and exciting! I am happy that the ERC is brave enough to invest in a high-risk project, yet where the potential benefits could be huge. The grant will allow us to investigate in detail the molecular mechanisms at work and test novel treatment strategies. I hope that five years from now we will be much better able to help children with hard-to-treat neuroblastoma.”
ERC project: “Decode Relapse: Decoding and Targeting Treatment-Resistant Metastatic Neuroblastoma”
Joan Yuan, researcher and associate professor of immunology at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, will delve into the fascinating world of B cells, which develop in our earliest days of life and play a crucial role in our adult immune system. The concept of neonatal immunisation is well established. It highlights the importance of the period of neonatal development in establishing a symbiotic relationship between microbes and our immune system, with lifelong implications for our health.
The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying early immune programming remain largely unexplored. Now, Joan Yuan and her research team will use their innovative genetic toolbox to investigate the formation of these unique B cells, as well as their role and significance for the immune system and long-term health. The researchers hypothesise that developmental and microbial circumstances shape an early wave of postnatal B cell memory, giving them distinct characteristics that then go on to influence the development of the adult immune response. By genetically time stamping and manipulating these B cells in a highly controlled manner, the researchers hope to develop a comprehensive understanding of their role in the formation of the adult immune system.
“Our research is based on the use of sophisticated mouse models established through the support of our previous ERC Starting Grant. These models represent the only way to establish a causal relationship between neonatal B cell exposure and adult immunity. However, they require significant resources and long-term investments, which are rarely available from other funders. This kind of funding is essential for ambitious research that requires more time, effort and money, but can lead to greater progress. We therefore wish to express our sincere gratitude to the ERC for their commitment to supporting our research programme and the invaluable opportunities their support provides.”
Andreas Nilsson, senior lecturer at the Department of Geology, will receive SEK 23 million for the study of the Earth’s magnetic field. This field acts as a shield against harmful cosmic rays and is essential for life on our planet. Over the past 180 years, the strength of the magnetic field has been steadily decreasing, leading to speculation that we are heading for a geomagnetic reversal. At the same time, an area with an unusually weak magnetic field has emerged in the South Atlantic, creating problems for satellites in low Earth orbit due to increased radiation exposure. Reconstructions of variations in the Earth’s magnetic field over the past 10,000 years, based on indirect geological and archaeological observations, suggest that weak magnetic field deviations such as the South Atlantic Anomaly are recurrent phenomena linked to periodic variations in the field’s strength over thousands of years. By investigating the flow of the Earth’s iron-rich liquid outer core where the magnetic field is generated, we can better understand these processes.
“The aim of the project is to study prehistoric analogues to our present-day magnetic field using integrated modelling of the magnetic field and flux in the Earth’s core to reveal the underlying processes responsible for the ongoing weakening in magnetic field strength,” says Andreas Nilsson.
ERC-projekt: PALEOCORE Core dynamics on millennial timescales.