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Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia scientist wins new Portuguese award Simbiontes for cancer research
Date:12/15/2010

The Simbiontes ("Symbionts" in English) Project brought together children, their families, artists and scientists in a first of its kind fundraising project in Portugal. A true symbiosis was established between several groups in society, leading to this award for scientific research.

Miguel Godinho Ferreira, group leader at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Cincia, just outside Lisbon, is the first scientist to win the 10,000 euros Simbiontes Award, for his proposal to investigate the cellular changes that cause cancer in adults. Over 80% of cancers appear in adults over 50, making age one of the main risk factors for this disease. Miguel Godinho Ferreira's research promises crucial insights into understanding the causes of cancer, and, potentially, into developing approaches to fight the disease.

Miguel's research interests lie in understanding why the incidence of cancer increases with age. He believes he has a clue as to what may underlie this phenomenon: "Chromosome ends have on them protective structures, made up of DNA, called telomeres. As we age, telomeres become shorter, thus acting like molecular clocks that convey the age of a cell."

Telomeres undergo lifelong wear and tear because the enzyme that builds them is not active in human cells. Indeed, telomerase - as this enzyme is called - is active only in the embryo, and becomes inactive at birth. Miguel and his team are looking for the signals associated to telomerase in young cells, that are absent in old cells. They hope to harness these molecular signals to stop cancer developing in older cells. Says Miguel, "If we could manipulate telomerase so that old cells could be tricked into believing they are younger than they really are, it might just be possible to stop cancer from developing. In this project we will try to prove this hypothesis, using first a model organism (yeast), then extending our findings into human cells, and, potentially, paving the way for new therapies.
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Contact: Ana Godinho
agodinho@igc.gulbenkian.pt
351-214-407-959
Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia
Source:Eurekalert  

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Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia scientist wins new Portuguese award Simbiontes for cancer research
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